© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Peshtigo and Marinette residents still looking for solutions for PFAS-contaminated private wells

Frank Köhntopp
Stock Adobe
Wisconsin DNR staff shared some updates with Marinette and neighboring Town of Peshtigo residents and listened to their concerns Wednesday.

Wisconsin DNR staff shared some updates with Marinette and neighboring Town of Peshtigo residents and listened to their concerns Wednesday. They’re some of the people contending with PFAS-contaminated private wells.

The DNR first met with area residents back in July 2019. Wednesday’s marked the agency’s 18th listening session.

READ Marinette residents want to get PFAS chemicals under control

"My name is Jeffrey J. Budish, Town of Peshtigo. I had my well tested, and this is over five years ago, and it tested positive, and nothing has been done. Because I'm out of the recognition of their plume zone, they're not doing anything. I'm buying my bottled water. I had to put my own home water treatment system in there," Budish told the crowd of 80-plus people who gathered at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Marienette and Peshtigo residents attend listening session Wednesday.
C Boyle
Peshtigo and Marinette residents attend listening session Wednesday.

Others attended virtually.

Budish is referring to Marinette-based Tyco. It manufactures firefighting foam, one of countless products that have historically contained PFAS.

The huge family of chemicals are called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment.

More than 230 private wells in the Town of Peshtigo alone are said to be contaminated.

Tyco has assumed responsibility for some of those wells, only those, the company asserts, that are tainted by PFAS emanating from its Fire Technology Center. Tyco says other companies should be held accountable for wider contamination.

DNR project manager Alyssa Sellwood says her agency continues to negotiate with Tyco, urging it to widen its private well testing area and to test for PFAS in biosolids.

“Last spring, we were expecting to get a work plan from JCI Tyco to outline getting started in this area. We had not received a work plan, but late last night, we did receive this work plan,” Sellwood says.

Other have taken legal action to try to hold the company financially responsible for the contamination, including the Town of Peshtigo's recent lawsuit against Tyco and 100 other companies.

Sellwood reported some degree of progress in DNR efforts. The agency wants to better understand how the plume, the densest concentration of contamination in groundwater, is behaving.

“We’re starting to see what’s happening at the bedrock surface, starting to understand some specific flow paths as it moves out into the city and to the Town of Peshtigo, getting more refinement and understanding of that,” Sellwood says.

Jeff Budish, who spoke up earlier, could not contain his frustration. The path to clean drinking water still seems out of reach.

“We need political representation to stand up to these corporations,” Budish says.

download (1).webp
Susan Bence
Left to right: DNR's Christine Sieger with Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Jon Meiman and Clara Jeong at a January 2020 listening session.

DNR remediation and redevelopment director Christine Sieger has met with residents for all of the listening sessions stretching over the last three-plus years. She seemed to commiserate with them, saying her agency can only regulate what the state legislature allows.

"The DNR cannot just legislate its own drinking water standard or groundwater standard or biosolid standards, but provide advice to people, collect data, and try to let people know this is what we think you should be doing, but we don't have authority to say you can't do it," Sieger says.

The DNR team will return, anticipating its update will come next spring. Sieger told attendees Wednesday the goal is to reach the very best outcome possible for residents.


Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
Related Content