DNR decision on free bottled water for French Island expected by late August
TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (WKBT) — A decision is possible by late August on whether and how long the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will continue to provide bottled water to Campbell residences where wells’ PFAS levels exceed safety standards.
The DNR’s interim advisory on contamination, which was issued in March and recommended using bottled water for drinking and cooking, will be updated in mid to late August, said Jenna Soyer, policy and program operations director of the DNR’s Environmental Management Division.
The DNR is evaluating data from the town, state tests and residences, Soyer said Wednesday evening during a virtual listening session with officials from the DNR and the state Department of Health Services.
The DNR is supplying 1,100 residences with bottled water now, and it will try to do so as long as necessary, although funding may curtail some, she said. All are eligible to receive the water for up to six months, and the update is expected to provide information on the temporary solution’s status, she said.
The DNR sampled 200 private wells and 17 public wells, which are for schools, businesses and restaurants, in May. Others were tested privately, by the town or public entities, with the total tested being 551. Of that total, 13 tests detected no PFAS contamination; 139 exceeded the standard of 20 parts per million, and 26, higher levels. according to the DNR.
PFAs are manmade compounds — often called forever chemicals because it takes so long to dissipate — that have been linked to infertility, thyroid disease and cancer.
The contaminated water still is acceptable for showering, bathing and washing hands, the officials said. Concerns have been raised recently about watering edible plants, such vegetables and fruits, but the DNR says the science is just emerging on that issue.
However, it recommends avoiding using water at or above the standard to water gardens.
As for long-term solutions and people asking about digging new wells, DNR official Kyle Burton said deeper wells might provide an answer.
However, that is a costly option, with the possibility that a new well could become contaminated, said Burton, field operations director in the Environmental Management Division.
In addition, drilling many new wells could result in broader contamination of the field, he said. Creating a new municipal water system or partnering with another municipality could take years to plan, approve and construct, he said.
The next listening session could be scheduled for mid to late August.
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