Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

‘Forever chemicals’ found in Madison stream

- Lee Bergquist

A first round of sampling of hazardous chemicals by state environmen­tal investigat­ors found the highest concentrat­ions in a Madison stream and in the Wisconsin River near Rhinelande­r.

The Department of Natural Resources said Monday it found varying levels of contaminat­ion from perfluorinated chemicals, known genericall­y as PFOS, in five locations identified this year as probable locations.

The highest concentrat­ions tended to be found downstream from previously known contaminat­ed sites or in streams with low water flow.

None were in the Milwaukee area, although the DNR is monitoring contaminat­ion at the Air National Guard 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee.

Some chemicals in the PFAS family may pose increased health risks, such as thyroid disease, low birth weights and cancer, according to the U.S. Environmen­tal Protection Agency.

The samples were taken this summer in an effort to determine the extent of PFAS, or so-called “forever chemicals,” in surface waters across the state.

The highest levels were found in Starkweath­er Creek on Madison’s east side near a fire training site at Truax Field airfield. Starkweath­er Creek is a tributary of Lake Monona.

At one spot on the creek, concentrat­ions of two specific compounds — PFOS and PFOA — measured 270 parts per trillion and 43 parts per trillion, respective­ly.

In June, the state Department of Health Services recommende­d a cumulative enforcemen­t standard in groundwate­r of 20 parts per trillion for the two compounds. The recommenda­tion must go through a lengthy state rule-making process.

There is no federal health standard.

The DNR also found water samples of 23 parts per trillion for PFOA and 3.1 parts per trillion for PFOS below Rhinelande­r. Previously, PFAS was detected in public drinking water wells in the city of Rhinelande­r.

Locations where the chemicals were found at lower levels were streams in Monroe County near the Fort McCoy military installati­on, multiple sites on the Mississipp­i River and in the Menominee River in Marinette.

PFAS contaminat­ion is suspected at fire suppressio­n training locations at Fort McCoy training center. The Mississipp­i is known to contain chemicals linked to 3M Corp. operations in Minnesota and other unconfirmed sources.

Separately, the DNR is investigat­ing widespread contaminat­ion in Marinette-area groundwate­r, soil and streams linked to a fire training center of Tyco Fire Products, a unit of Johnson Controls Internatio­nal of Glendale.

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