Madison Water Utility found four additional types of PFAS and no improvement in the levels of other chemicals in a Madison water supply well, according to recent test results.
MWU, a public utility that provides water to over 250,000 people across Madison and neighboring areas, pumps water from an aquifer to 22 different wells.
MWU conducted testing of Well 15 on East Washington Avenue Feb. 4. The samples were sent to two separate national labs that looked at 30 different PFAS compounds.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, man-made chemicals, are found in food packaging, household products such as paints and fire-fighting foams, and production facilities that utilize PFAS products.
PFAS can also build up in organisms, like fish and humans, over time.
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Studies have indicated at least two PFASs — perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid — are related to tumors in animals, increased cholesterol, low infant birth weights, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.
The two labs that received the well water reported slightly different results for the concentration of PFOA and PFOS, but they reported an average result of 11.4 parts per trillion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Health Advisory Level for these combined compounds is 70 parts per trillion.
The EPA advisory limit has been debated, however, because it is up to five times too high to protect children, infants and fetuses.
In October 2018, MWU tested for 18 compounds. When they tested for an additional 12 compounds in February, trace amounts of four additional types of PFAS were detected.
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Including the new types of PFAS, the total concentration at Well 15 averaged approximately 56 parts per trillion.
The Wisconsin Air National Guard base on the north side of Madison is the suspected source of the drinking water contamination.
PFAS levels of nearly 40,000 parts per trillion have been found on the base. According to an October 2018 report from the Department of Natural Resources, analysis of fish tissue will be conducted at the base in the future to monitor levels of PFASs.
While polluters are required by law to meet cleanup deadlines of up to 90 days, the DNR is allowed to extend them. The military and the DNR have reached an agreement that allows them to bypass the standard timetable for cleanup.
Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Rockland, Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon and State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, recently authored a bill to streamline Wisconsin’s water pollution credit-trading system. It has been predicted the bill could save taxpayers the cost of upgrading public facilities to meet new phosphorus standards. It would additionally provide farmers with a new revenue source.
The bill would allow state officials to hire a private entity to act as a credit clearinghouse. The private entity would contract with non-point polluters, like farms whose runoff pollutes areas beyond their immediate vicinity, to work on pollution. That work would generate credits. Point source polluters, or those that pollute from a single source, would purchase credits from the clearinghouse.
“The measure assuages point sources’ concerns about being liable if non-point sources didn’t really do the work to earn credits and help struggling farmers raise money by selling credits, in turn allowing them to buy pollution reduction technology,” AP reported.
Gov. Tony Evers’ budget, released Thursday, will additionally allocate $70 million in bonding to address water quality.