Number of French Island wells contaminated with PFAS tops 500

The new numbers come as the Wisconsin DNR holds its first public hearing to set PFAS drinking water safety standards

TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (WKBT) More than 500 French Island wells have tested positive for PFAS. The new numbers come on the same day the Wisconsin DNR held its first public hearing to set PFAS drinking water safety standards. 

Wisconsin is a long ways away from adopting enforceable drinking water standards. A speaker for the DNR doesn’t expect that to happen until 2024. 

PFAS are a group of man-made compounds Used to manufacturer many products, Including the fire fighting foam sprayed at the La Crosse Regional Airport. The chemicals are linked to infertility, thyroid disease and cancer. 

The City of La Crosse tested for and found PFAS in wells around the airport last year. The DNR stepped in to test more wells. As of June 3rd, 538 private and public French Island wells have tested positive for PFAS.

The contamination is not unique. There are dozens of PFAS contamination sites in Wisconsin and hundreds nation-wide. Our neighbors, Minnesota and Michigan, have already set maximum PFAS drinking water contamination levels. Wisconsin is just getting started. The DNR held it’s first public comment hearing on June 4th. Town of Campbell Supervisor, Lee Donahue was one of about half-d0zen people to testify in favor of setting safety standards. Donahue says safe drinking water is a human right. “On the island where I live, 4,000 people are now drinking bottled water because our private wells are contaminated with PFAS,”, says Donahue.

Just one speaker opposed the rule. Craig Summerfield represented Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Summerfield raised concerns over among other things, the cost. “Given the significant, unknown costs of these recommended standards, this practice is deeply troubling,” says Summerfield

The DNR will take written public comments until June 10 

 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.