“New groundwater contamination has been found near Lake Michigan in northeastern Wisconsin, involving a group of chemicals that is raising concerns nationally about their effects on human health.

Tyco Fire Products said June 7 it discovered the chemicals in well samples at its manufacturing plant in Marinette on the banks of the Menominee River, a tributary to Green Bay.

It’s the latest discovery of perfluorinated chemicals — widely manufactured compounds that in recent months have turned up  on the Wisconsin-Michigan border…

Tyco is a maker of specialized firefighting foams, which are used to extinguish gas and oil fires at refineries, airports, military bases and other locations.

In December, the company, a unit of Johnson Controls International, began supplying bottled water to about 100 homeowners in the Town of Peshtigo, next to Marinette, after the chemicals were found to have spread from Tyco’s fire training center to private wells. In some instances, where chemicals were above a federal health advisory level for drinking water, the company is installing carbon filtration systems in homes.

In the latest case, Tyco said it found chemicals in groundwater a few miles away in monitoring wells at its riverside plant. The wells were installed as part of a separate toxic cleanup of arsenic by the company. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the arsenic cleanup, directed Tyco to test the wells for perfluorinated chemicals.

In addition to the Tyco findings, trace amounts of the chemicals have also been detected in Marinette’s municipal drinking water, according to city and Department of Natural Resources records. Officials say, however, that the levels are extremely low and not considered a danger to public health.

A greater concern: Elevated levels of the chemicals have shown up in Marinette’s wastewater treatment system during tests in November and May, city and DNR records show. After treating the waste, effluent is released into the river.

The leftover sludge historically has been spread on farm fields. A city official told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the practice has been taking place for 30 years.

With that in mind, the DNR directed the city to test sludge samples.

DNR officials say they are waiting for laboratory results. They say it’s uncertain whether Tyco is the source of the wastewater contamination and too early to determine the impact of sludge on soil, crops and livestock…

Tyco has drilled 24 holes to test groundwater outside of its properties and found concentrations ranging from no detection to 1,653 parts per trillion, according to a company website devoted to the Marinette problem.

Four samples of standing water in ditches at the fire training center showed concentrations that ranged from 417 to 4,620 parts per trillion.

Of 137 drinking water wells tested, 97 showed no signs of the chemicals. Eleven were above the health advisory limit, ranging from 73 to 1,900 parts per trillion.

As for the latest discovery at its plant along the river, Engerman said remedies ordered by the EPA in 2009 to prevent arsenic from leaving the site also could be used for perfluorinated chemicals.

But some residents, worried about the impact on natural resources, want quicker action.”

Read the full article by Lee Berquist