PFAS Contamination Wider Than Thought In Marinette Well Water

Jan 10, 2020

Residents in Marinette, Wis., and neighboring Peshtigo have been calling for action on PFAS chemicals for years. On Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that a well outside that area has been contaminated. 

READ: Marinette Residents Want To Get PFAS Chemicals Under Control

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of thousands of synthetic chemicals that don’t break down in the environment and bio-accumulate. That means they become concentrated inside the bodies of living things, like humans.

PFAS are found in the firefighting foam that, since the 1960s, has been produced and tested in Marinette. In 2017, Wisconsin DNR announced the factory that produces the foam had the state’s highest known contamination of these "forever" chemicals. The operation is now owned by Johnson Controls.

Part of Johnson Controls' operations in Marinette, Wis.
Credit Susan Bence

"PFAS contamination has been detected in the Marinette and Peshtigo area in soil, sediment, groundwater, surface water, private drinking water wells and biosolids," according to the Wisconsin DNR website.

Johnson Controls started testing for PFAS contamination and offered bottled and filtered water for people who live within 10-square-miles of its operations.

But on Friday, the DNR announced it was delivering emergency water to someone living approximately a half-mile southwest of the monitoring area.

Two years ago, the homeowner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It's not clear if the cancer is linked to PFAS.

Editor's note: This is a developing story.