Read the full article by Amy Dupont (Fox6 Now)
“MARINETTE COUNTY — 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 in Marinette County, where the Wisconsin DNR says the well and groundwater is contaminated.
Cindy and Chuck Boyle live in the plume and have been drinking bottled water for more than a year.
In 2017, local manufacturer, Johnson Controls International reached out to the Boyle’s, asking to test the well on family property for a chemical called PFAS. The Boyle’s had never heard of it.
‘They never led us to believe it was a nasty compound at all until we did our own research on it,’ explains Chuck Boyle.
PFAS stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances; man-made compounds used by manufacturers worldwide since the 19-40’s to produce products like non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and fire-fighting foam.
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states leading the way to set enforceable PFAS drinking water standards A task that led Darsi Foss, Administrator of the DNR’s Environmental Management Division, to investigate JCI.
‘They sprayed a lot of foam over decades that spread into ditches, into surface water and groundwater,’ says Foss.
In 2017, Johnson Controls notified the DNR it had tested for and found PFAS in the ground on its Marinette fire training site. The company also acknowledged in that report it knew the chemical in the ground nearly four years earlier but did not report it until 2017.
In an interview with FOX6 News, John Perkins, VP of Johnson Control’s Environment Health & Safety, said he didn’t believe the company was required to.
‘We continued to evaluate that with our consultant recommendation that was no requirement to report based on our consultant’s feedback to us,’ explains Perkins.
Foss says Johnson Control’s interpretation is not correct. Under Wisconsin law, anyone who either causes or discovers a hazardous substance in the ground on their property or anyone else’s property must report it immediately. The DNR has referred JCI to the Department of Justice for failure to report. The Attorney General is investigating.
Once in the ground, PFAS spread through the soil, groundwater and surface water and into dozens of private wells, making the water unsafe to drink, cook with, or use to brush your teeth.
Johnson Controls International is working to address the contamination. It no longer tests fire-fighting foam with 2 PFAS compounds. The company is working on a plan to pipe clean water into the affected areas. In the meantime, JCI is providing free bottled water to everyone living in the contamination area and filtration systems in homes that test positive for high levels of PFAS.
The company also installed two industrial filtration stations on two streams that run through its property and into town. The stations are designed to filter and remove the PFAS that’s still spreading from the contamination site. ‘Concentrations coming into this facility are roughly 3,000 parts per trillion some days are less, but roughly 3,000 parts per trillion. When it leaves the facility its non-detectable concentrations’, says Perkins.
3,000 parts per trillion is significant. According to the EPA, any more than 70 parts per trillion isn’t safe. Water quality groups say that’s the equivalent to a drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool. There is evidence exposure to higher amounts can lead to infertility, cancer and thyroid disease…”