Number of French Island wells contaminated with PFAS continues to grow

331 wells have tested positive for the man-made compounds. Rep. Ron Kind says some federal funds are available to help

TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (WKBT) — The drinking water contamination on French Island is growing. As of May 27, 331 Town of Campbell wells had tested positive for PFAS, a group of man-made compounds linked to cancer and other illnesses.

In March, the Wisconsin DNR issued an interim area-wide drinking water advisory. The DNR is providing free bottled water to Island families, but they will need a permanent source of clean drinking water.

Some help is now available from the Federal government. Congressman Ron Kind met with homeowners on French Island Thursday. Money from the American Rescue Plan, a pandemic relief bill, can be used for PFAS testing, clean up and to provide short and long-term sources of clean drinking water, Kind said.

The Wisconsin Democrat, who lives on French Island, is encouraging the Town of Campbell, city of la Crosse and La Crosse County to ask for it.

“We’re not unique here,” Kind said. “There are hotspots around Wisconsin and around the nation. So I’m sponsoring legislation at the federal level to establish good scientific standards and also a action plan on grants that will be available to local communities on how to address it.”

Kind also spoke with community members about their concerns about their health. The PFAS levels in 115 wells are so high, the water is unsafe to drink, cook with or use to brush teeth.

“This is where I grew up,” said Christopher Donahue. “This is my home, and it hurts to even think about there is anything endangering your family and people you know; even people you don’t know,” .

A spokesman for The DNR tells News 8 Now that the agency hasn’t set a date to end the advisory. It will keep providing bottled water, but the advisory won’t cover a permanent source of clean drinking water.

That is why Kind said he is pushing the federal government to provide more help. Kind and 26 other members of Congress also introduced the PFAS Action Act to establish national drinking water standards for some PFAS compounds. If passed, the PFAS Action Act also would provide $200 million annually to utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.