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Kabat addresses PFAS findings and how La Crosse moves forward

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - After the City of La Crosse found out a month ago that some wells on French Island had been contaminated with PFAS, they have been working since to find a permanent solution, but for now, the homes using the contaminated wells, have been provided with bottled water.

Thursday afternoon, Mayor Tim Kabat held a virtual press conference to address the ongoing PFAS contamination issue. He started the meeting by explaining that PFAS are something that build up over time and not something that is fast acting.

"This stuff is everywhere and in everything and it has been that way for many, many years," said Mayor Kabat.

He explained that many of us have PFAS in our blood already from things that we have used, or use in everyday life. So while it can have long term effects, it is not something that can cause immediate harm.

They believe the PFAS contamination originated when the area was used for burn pits. Then contamination continued to come from a plane crash in 2001.

Mayor Tim Kabat explained that this testing was something required by the federal government, not something that the city of La Crosse decided to do on their own but they are doing their best to be responsive and solve the problem. While the issue shouldn't be sugarcoated, he wants people to not be immediately alarmed and this is an evolving issue.

"We have acted very quickly and gone above and beyond what the DNR asked us to do initially," said Mayor Kabat.

Through January 20, they had tested 125 wells at 122 properties. 15 samples are pending lab results right now, 65 are below proposed DNR standards and 45 are above proposed standards.

Right now, they don't have an ultimate solution but Mayor Kabat said that if it is a filter type solution, they could have the problem resolved this year. However, if they have to install a new municipal water supply, it could take years.

While they are working to figure out the best course of action, John Storlie from the OS Group, said their current course of action involves bottled water for now until a permanent solution is found.

"We started putting some numbers around those long term fixes, as well as, maybe there is an interim fix. The bottled water is temporary. Do we put in treatment systems as an interim fix before an ultimate best solution, municipal water throughout the whole neighborhood is put in place?" Storlie asked.

He explained that step one is bottled water, step two is treatment units at the houses, step three is a permanent solution of putting in municipal water throughout the neighborhood.

Mayor Kabat said as they are learning challenges and more about the issue, they will continue to share with the public so everyone can be informed.

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Rylie Kyhn

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