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City well tests positive for PFAS contamination

Well 26H La Crosse 1
Well 26H La Crosse 2

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - A city well on French Island near the La Crosse Regional Airport has tested positive for PFAS contamination.

City Utility Manager Bernard Lenz tells WXOW that Well 26 northwest of the airport is used by the city during times of peak demand, usually in the summer months. He said the well hasn't been used since last summer. Two other wells by the airport were taken out of service when PFAS contaminants were discovered in them.

PFAS contamination found in firefighting foam used at the airport has spread to surrounding private wells used by residents of French Island. The Wisconsin DNR and Department of Health Services issued a drinking water advisory for residents in late March based on the contamination.

Many residents are either receiving bottled water or are in the process of receiving bottled water from the city or DNR.

Lenz said the city sampled the water in Well 26 on March 9 before it could be brought online for possible use this summer. He said results showed that PFAS contaminants were in the water, but at levels below advisory levels.

In a statement, Lenz said that, "The concentrations detected in Well 26 are below all these levels, and the water from Well 26 is presumed not to be a health hazard (his emphasis).

A second test done on water samples using an alternative lab analysis method confirmed the results according to Lenz.

He said that the Water Utility doesn't plan to use water from Well 26 "unless there is no other way to provide service. Future scenarios that may necessitate using Well 26 include system flushing, high water demand by the fire department during a fire, a breakdown or required maintenance at other wells in the system, or very high demand periods such as those that occur in extended periods of dry summer heat waves."

Lenz stated that the city will work with the DNR's water supply specialists on a procedure to test the water from the well so if used, it remains below levels that could pose a health hazard.

Exposure to PFAS can cause issues with the immune system, thyroid, cause cancer, or affect infant birth weights according to the EPA.


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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