La Crosse School District to test Summit Elementary well for PFAS

The district is offering bottled water to concerned students and staff while it waits for results

TOWN OF CAMPBEL, Wis. (WKBT)- Students at La Crosse’s Summit Elementary are being offered bottle water while the district waits for the results of its well test. 

The City of La Crosse is testing some parts of French Island, where the school is located, for a dangerous compound called PFAS. Summit sits outside of that area, but so are other wells that have tested positive for PFAS.  

Inside Summit Elementary, some students and staff are skipping the tap, filling their water bottles with water the district can say with certainty is safe. Superintendent Aaron Engel says the district is being proactive and is having the school well tested for a dangerous compound called PFAS. The man-made chemical has been linked to infertility, thyroid disease and cancer. PFAS was used to produce the fire-fighting foam sprayed at the La Crosse Airport, that according to the city’s own tests, spread tmore than 100 private wells. 

The City of La Crosse is only testing wells where it believes PFAS may have spread through the groundwater.  The Town of Campbell asked the city to test the entire island. The city said no. “The city is dragging their feet. We want our residents to have clean and safe water. It’s a human right. All of those results would have been back. We could had totally pinpointed and mapped the island to see where the water is contaminated so that we could move forward.”, says Town Supervisor Lee Donahue. 

A handful homeowners, outside the city’s testing zone, have paid up to $425 out of pocket for their own test. Every one has come back positive for at least detectable levels of PFAS, including the well of U.S. Congressman Ron Kind. “It is a serious situation obviously, we’re talking about my neighbors. We are scrubbing the various programs at the Federal level to see if there is something that might fit.”, says Kind.

Rep. Kind wants to secure federal funds to pay for expanded well testing.  Until he comes through, or the City of La Crosse agrees to test more neighborhoods, well owners like the school district, are on their own. “We’re footing the bill for the test. We want to get it done quickly and done as soon as possible.”, says Engel.  Like many of its neighbors, the district is not taking any chances, paying the tab, to protect the health of families and kids. 

It can take up to two or three months for a well test to come back. The school district paid for an expedited test. The sample will be sent to the lab on Monday, March 1st. The district expects results in 8 to 9 days.