Tests reveal “PFAS” contamination in 40 Town of Campbell private wells

The city of La Crosse is offering bottled water to residents whose wells tested high for PFAS

TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (WKBT)- Imagine not being able to drink or cook with the water coming from your tap because it’s not safe.  That’s the reality for dozens of homeowners on French Island, where environmental consultants say some private wells are contaminated.  The affected homes are near the airport. There may be others we just don’t know about yet. 

The wells are contaminated with a man-made compound called “PFAS”.  PFAS has been used since the 1940’s to produce products like non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and fire-fighting foam.  Firefighters at the La Crosse airport had used the foam for years.  It works to quickly put out fuel fires, but once in the ground, PFAS can spread through the soil and groundwater, and into private wells. 

PFAS is considered a forever chemical because it doesn’t really break down and it’s potent. The Wisconsin DNR says any more than 20-parts per trillion (ppt) isn’t safe. That’s the equivalent of 20 drops of water in an Olympics swimming pool. There is evidence higher concentrations can lead to infertility, cancer, and thyroid disease. 

The city of La Crosse detected PFAS in two city wells near the airport back in 2015.  This fall, 5 years later, the city began testing 109 private wells.  City of La Crosse consultant, John Storlie told the Town of Campbell Monday all but one well had detectable levels of PFAS. 40 wells were above the DNR’s proposed 20 ppt safety standard; 9 tested at least 50 times higher.

Storlie says the City of La Crosse had paid about half a million dollars for the well tests so far and started providing bottled water to affected families who wanted it in December. Last week, a city committee approved another 25-thousand to pay for more bottled water. 

Bottled water is only a short-term solution. The homes with contaminated wells above 20ppt, will need either a special carbon filter or water piped in from the city of La Crosse.  When asked who would pay to pipe water to the Town of Campbell homes, Storlie wouldn’t say.

The 40 homes that need water could be the tip of the iceberg.  Storlie says the city is planning to expand its testing zone to include additional 50-plus wells

The city of La Crosse is holding a public meeting Tuesday night to talk about the well test results and what happens next.