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