Read the full article by Marisa Wojcik (PBS Wisconsin)

“‘We’ve done things in our past to the environment that at the time they may not have seemed bad, but now we find out later that they’re not great for the Earth or for our personal health,’ said Lane Berg, the city of Eau Claire utilities manager.

Berg is in charge of the city’s drinking water wells.

We have 16 active wells and our wellfield here. It’s about 400 acres in size, and it serves the entire population of the city of Eau Claire,” he explained. ‘We pump about 9 million gallons per day.’

In July 2021, when the city’s water treatment plant first detected elevated levels of an emerging contaminant known as PFAS, Berg took immediate action.

‘When we did sample all of our wells, we found four wells on the north end of our well field that were slightly higher in PFAS levels,’ Berg explained. ‘So at that point, we shut those wells down immediately.’

PFAS stands for per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, and are referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’ Over the last few years, known contamination sites have popped up throughout Wisconsin.

‘I think the more that we test for it, the more we’ll find it,’ said Christy Remucal, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison.

‘These chemicals are used in a lot of different things that we come in contact with every day — a lot of consumer products, anything that’s nonstick or waterproof. So you can think about patterns, stain resistant carpeting, waterproof clothing. They’re used in industrial applications and in firefighting foams, just to name a few,’ Remucal explained.

‘Some of these chemicals have been used for decades, and we’re just now kind of finding out about the extent of contamination for them in the environment,’ she continued. ‘The concentrations that we worry about for human exposure and in environmental health are really low — nanograms per liter, parts per trillion.’

That’s parts per trillion.

‘Very minute concentrations we’re looking for,’ noted Berg.”…