Eau Claire shuts down wells due to PFAS contamination

‘forever Chemicals’ Found In Groundwater Near Military Bases
Jake May

FILE - In this June 7, 2018, file photo, PFAS foam gathers at the the Van Etten Creek dam in Oscoda Township, Mich., near Wurtsmith Air Force Base., High levels of toxic, widely used “forever chemicals” or PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, contaminate groundwater around at least six military sites in the Great Lakes region, according to U.S. Department of Defense records that an environmental group released Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — The city of Eau Claire has shut down almost half its wells due to PFAS contamination.

Wisconsin Public Radio reported Tuesday that the city announced in July that it had shut down four of its 16 wells after tests found PFAS levels exceeded the groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion as recommended by state health officials. Now the city has closed down three more wells after more tests showed they’re contaminated with a mix of PFAS chemicals.

PFAS are chemicals found in firefighting foam as well as in many types of food packaging. The chemicals don’t break down in nature and have been linked to cancer and fertility issues. PFAS contamination has been a problem in other Wisconsin municipalities beyond Eau Claire, most notably Madison, Marinette and the La Crosse area.

RELATED: Elevated levels of PFAS found in more Madison-area waterways

The state Department of Natural Resources believes the PFAS contaminating Eau Claire’s wells stem from firefighting foam used at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport. The department directed the airport to investigate in August.

Meanwhile, the department is trying to find ways to contain contamination, DNR hydrogeologist Matt Thompson said. The city is currently pumping about 5 million gallons per day from three wells into lagoons to prevent the pollution from migrating to clean wells.