City of La Crosse considers how to get clean water to Campbell residents after contaminating private wells

More than 100 private wells have tested positive for PFAS

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- How do we get clean water to the Town of Campbell, and who should pay for it? The City of La Crosse must answer both after chemicals used at the La Crosse Airport contaminated dozens of private wells 

The wells are contaminated with a man-made compound called PFAS. PFAS was used in fire-fighting foam sprayed at the La Crosse Airport. Once in the ground, the PFAS spread into more than 100 private wells.

Small concentrations of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to infertility, thyroid disease, and cancer. The Wisconsin DNR says more than 20-parts per trillion isn’t safe.  That’s the equivalent of 20 drops of water in an Olympic swimming pool. 

All but one of the 109 wells tested around the airport had detectable levels of PFAS.  36 had concentrations above the DNR standard. The City of La Crosse is providing 32 of those families with bottled water.  The four others declined the City’s offer.

That’s a short-term solution. Those homes will need either an expensive water filtration system or water piped in from the city. La Crosse Mayor, Tim Kabat, hasn’t said who will cover the cost. “The city is exploring a class action lawsuit against the (fire-fighting foam) manufacturers. Up to this point, quite frankly, the only threats of lawsuits have been directed towards the city. I’m not sure what the other lawsuits might be.”, says Kabat.

The amount of PFAS in a well can change. During a meeting with City officials and Town of Campbell residents, residents within the plume of contamination, but who’s wells tested below 20ppt, asked if the city would also provide them with bottled water. The City council will consider their request on Thursday.