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Kabat asks state for help with PFAS contamination issue

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat has asked for state support to deal with the PFAS contamination issue between the city and the Town of Campbell.

The Mayor gave details of the meeting in a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon.

In an earlier statement from Kabat, he said the problem has become too big for the city to handle itself. “The City can no longer tackle alone what is becoming an increasingly regional issue. The State’s resources, expertise and coordination are necessary to protect the citizens of Wisconsin,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.  “We have made this our highest priority and will continue to do so, but we can no longer do it ourselves. We have been solely addressing and bearing the steep costs of this issue for several years.  It’s time for the State to step in with a holistic approach to this serious problem.” 

Kabat said he requested the meeting with the DNR earlier this month. He's asking the state to provide resources for determining the size of the contamination, sources, and help with providing safe drinking water to residents until a permanent solution can be achieved.

PFAS contamination was detected after testing at a city well near the La Crosse Regional Airport. The contaminants came from fire-fighting foam used in training at the airport. They spread from the airport through the groundwater and into private wells in the Town of Campbell. The city has provided bottled water to residents as a results. The Wisconsin DNR is also providing water to residents in other parts of French Island.

The city has filed a lawsuit against the makers of the chemicals used in the foam. The city alleges the companies have known since the 1960s that the foam would contaminate the area's groundwater but continued to manufacture and sell it without warning their customers, creating an unreasonable danger to public health.

“Today’s meeting was an important first step in centralizing an approach to PFAS contamination in the La Crosse region, taking a comprehensive approach to addressing that contamination and holding those responsible for creating it,” said Mayor Kabat. “We look forward to the State’s much needed assistance.” 

Mayor Kabat also announced that he is sending the Federal Aviation Administration a waiver to stop using fire fighting foam that contains PFAS at the La Crosse Regional Airport.

Currently, the airport is required by law to continue using PFAS contained foam that causes ground water contamination.

Town of Campbell supervisor Lee Donahue said they asked Kabat to make this request weeks ago and wish it happened sooner, but said this is a step toward safer water.

"For us that's a huge deal," Donahue said. We know that 'a-triple-f' and PFAS containing foam poisons ground water. Unfortunately we are the recipients of that poisoning and so trading to a not fluorine foam is key not only to prevent future contamination of our ground water but to protect our residents."

Mayor Kabat said the FAA waiver request is more complicated than just sending a letter, but that it should be sent "in a few days".


INFORMATION AND PREVIOUS WXOW COVERAGE ON PFAS ISSUES

WXOW Coverage of PFAS issues

City of La Crosse PFAS information

Town of Campbell PFAS information

DNR PFAS information website

DNR investingation into Town of Campbell PFAS contamination

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