Read the full article by Laura Schulte (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

“A company known for mixing firefighting foam containing toxic ‘forever chemicals’ once again turned down a request to investigate how far the contamination may have spread when farmers used sludge from sewage treatment plants as fertilizer on their farms.

Tyco Fire Products, which has a fire training and research center based in Marinette, was issued its third letter of noncompliance by the Department of Natural Resources Monday, relating to the spread of sludge, or biosolids, from the Marinette wastewater utility.

For years, the company has pushed back against the DNR on investigating the expanded area, which includes fields miles outside of Marinette and Peshtigo, where the contamination from the fire training facility is largely concentrated. Tyco said there is no guaranteed way to tell if the PFAS in the sludge originated from Tyco’s plant and could have another source.

The company said that based on documents from the state the source remains in question.

‘The documents make clear that WDNR has allowed biosolids application to continue from industrial and municipal sources commonly known to be sources of or impacted by PFAS,’ Denice Nelson, senior director of remediation and strategy for the company, said in a Feb. 16 letter.

‘It appears that the WDNR has not required testing for PFAS nor has it enforced a limit on PFAS concentrations in the waste materials from some or all of these sources.’

But the DNR disputed Tyco’s claims about not knowing all sources of the chemicals, saying the company has been named responsible for 61 fields, and the DNR has evidence of ‘discharges of PFAS-impacted water’ from Tyco’s facilities.

‘Testing by the city of Marinette found high levels of PFAS in its wastewater treatment plant’s biosolids that could be traced back to the sanitary lines servicing JCI/Tycos’s two facilities,’ Alyssa Sellwood, the DNR’s complex sites project manager, said in Monday’s letter.

Sellwood said that the state was still holding Tyco responsible, and by not continuing its investigation, the company would be held in noncompliance.

‘The goal of the investigation is to understand how much contamination is present, how far the contamination has spread, who is at risk and if cleanup or other response actions are needed,’ Sellwood said.

‘Delaying an investigation leaves these questions unanswered, which limits an understanding of who is at risk and delays the response actions to limit the spread of contamination.’

DNR has struggled to gain compliance on the biosolids issue

The DNR has been pushing Tyco to do more to address the issue of contaminated farm fields for years.

The DNR ended up paying for the testing in late 2020 and PFAS were found in wells, some at levels above the state Department of Health’s recommended combined standard of 20 parts per trillion. 

In January 2022, the company was issued its second letter of noncompliance for not providing water to impacted residents in the extended investigation area and for not testing. Tyco eventually took over the responsibility of providing homeowners with bottled water and will continue to do so, but has pushed back on DNR testing on fields. It has done some sampling but has stopped that process.

Tyco, a subsidiary of Johnson Controls, tested firefighting foam containing PFAS outdoors from 1962 until ending the practice in 2017. The foam ended up on the soil surrounding the company’s fire training center, as well as in the Marinette sewer system when the foam was washed into drains. 

Tyco, formerly known as the Ansul Company, was purchased by Johnson Controls in 2016. 

The contamination in Marinette and Peshtigo stems from the Tyco fire training site, where fires were set outdoors and then doused with foam. The foam contaminated the ground and the PFAS were carried across the area by the groundwater and sanitary sewers it was washed into after testing.

The company in early 2021 reached a settlement with more than 270 households in Peshtigo over the contamination, agreeing to provide $17.5 million. Of that money, $15 million will be allocated for class-wide claims, such as property damage, while $2.5 million will be allocated for people who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and preeclampsia.”…