Attorney puts City of La Crosse on notice for PFAS contamination

An attorney representing 125 people served the city for contaminating their private wells.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- The City of La Crosse could be in store for a long and expensive new legal battle.  An attorney representing 125 people served the city for contaminating their private wells.  The paperwork is the first step toward possible lawsuit. 

Inside these boxes are hundreds of documents demanding answers and possibly dollars from city hall.  “We know it’s a horrific situation with potentially hundreds of people affected by the pollution.”, explains attorney Tim Jacobson. Jacobson is representing 125 people from the Town of Campbell whose wells are contaminated with a hazardous chemical called PFAS.  

“Clearly the city has culpability. The city is the one that used the chemicals.”, says Jacobson. The man-made chemical was used to produce the fire-fighting foam sprayed at the La Crosse Airport for decades.  This fall, the City of La Crosse learned PFAS in the ground at the airport spread. According to the City’s own tests, to more than 100 private wells.  The PFAS levels in nearly half of the homes are so high, the water is unsafe to drink, cook with, or use to brush your teeth. “It’s incredibly scary. We need a solution and we need the city to make a commitment to these people and do that as soon as possible.”, says Jacobson. 

 The City of La Crosse is providing bottled water to families with the highest levels of PFAS.  Attorney Jacobson believes the city is responsible for paying for a permanent source of clean water, reduced property values, and any medical conditions linked to the contamination.  On Monday, Jacobson served the city with a “notice of circumstances of claim and injury”. The filing is required by Wisconsin state law before a party can sue a municipality. “Our hope and goal is that we can negotiate informally and amicably with the city to find a resolution that works for the citizens of French Island.”, says Jacobson  

 La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat declined our request for an interview. In a statement to News 8 Now., the mayor writes “The City of La Crosse is working on legislation to file suit against the manufacturers of these chemicals and I would strongly encourage impacted residents to join forces with our effort. Personally, I do not understand why Attorney Jacobson is trying to sow division between the residents of Campbell and the City of La Crosse, as we are both victims of these manufactured chemicals and have been negatively impacted.”  

Jacobson is also planning to take action against the foam manufacturers and hopes the city will work with him. But; with dozens of people in need of safe water, Jacobson isn’t taking any chances. “If we are not able to work things out we are prepared to take the next legal steps.”, says Jacobson

The city is still testing homes to determine the extent of the contamination. Attorney Jacobson says he needs that information before he can determine a damage amount.