Madison Water Utility announced Monday that it is shutting down a drinking water well on the North Side that has been contaminated with hazardous chemicals from Truax Field Air National Guard Base.
People living in the Well 15 area will temporarily rely on other well facilities to serve them, according to a press release from MWU. In the meantime, MWU has requested a recommended per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, standard from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which they are expected to have sometime this spring.
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According to the press release, two nearby reservoirs will be monitored to make sure they can meet demand without well 15. Well 8 in Olbrich Park may be brought on standby this spring, which is used as a last resort because its water contains high levels of naturally occurring iron and manganese.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that can be found in cleaning polishes and waxes, food packaging and fire-fighting foam, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases, according to the EPA.
There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans, and once ingested can easily build up and take years to leave the body. PFAS chemicals are currently unregulated in Wisconsin, the press release reads.
In the press release, MWU said they believe that the levels of PFAS detected at Well 15 are not considered a potential threat to people’s health and its water is safe to drink. PFAS detections at Well 15 are far below the EPA’s lifetime health advisory levels.
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After levels of the chemical in two municipal wells were detected to be below a federal health advisory, MWU board members called for consideration of more aggressive steps in response to citizen complaints.
Discussions between MWU staff and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin concluded that the decision to shut down Well 15 and address the issue may give families who live in the Well 15 area some comfort. According to the press release, most people in the area actually get a blend of water from Well 15 and one or more other wells.
Monthly Well 15 testing that began February sought stronger protections for Madison’s drinking water supply from hazardous chemicals that have spread through groundwater from Truax Field Air National Guard Base. From this point on, the monthly testing of Well 15 will not be executed until it is reopened.