PFAS: City of Wausau Fails to Immediately Provide Clean, Safe Water, Despite Residents’ Requests
ALL WELLS IMPACTED BY PFAS FOR AT LEAST MORE THAN TWO YEARS
According to the City of Wausau, the levels of PFAS range from 23 parts per trillion to 48 parts per trillion depending on the well.
Sampling results indicate that, for over two years, Wausau’s drinking water wells have exhibited PFAS levels that exceed the proposed standards from Wisconsin DHS and DNR of 20 parts per trillion combined. The guidance of 20 parts per trillion combined from DHS was based on an extensive amount of existing scientific literature that is summarized in its nearly 400-page related Cycle 11 document.
It is unclear why the public was only notified this month by the City of Wausau about the elevated levels in drinking water, as minutes of Wausau Water Works meetings as far back as October 1, 2019 reveal that some had an awareness of the related proposed PFAS/PFOS rules from the WDNR. Laboratory data provided by the City of Wausau on its website show that 2019 PFAS water samples were collected in May of that year.
At roughly 28 minutes and 40 seconds in the February 9, 2022 press conference video below, a CCW member and Wausau alderperson asks why, when the City became aware of the proposed standards and had the relevant test results from May 2019, that it did not notify the public sooner.
NO IMMEDIATE ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN BY MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE CLEAN, SAFE WATER TO RESIDENTS
Although all Wausau municipal wells are impacted by PFAS contamination above health-related state guidance, no action has yet been taken by the municipal government or the water utility to provide immediate clean and safe water to the city’s residents, despite vocal demands from the community and multiple council members to provide alternative water sources, filters, or filtered water.
Wisconsin DHS has a brochure related to ways to reduce PFAS in drinking water at home, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently ran an article on the topic.
Supporting information and data from a 2020 Duke University and North Carolina State study on “Assessing the Effectiveness of Point-of-Use Residential Drinking Water Filters for Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)” demonstrate that certain types of at-home or point-of-use filters can effectively reduce the levels of PFAS contaminants to well below the Wisconsin proposed standard of 20 parts per trillion combined. While such filters could be provided to all households in Wausau with eligible municipal ARPA funds, no action has been taken to date by municipal government to provide an immediate, interim solution for residents to have clean, safe water at home.
This lack of action has occurred even in the face of City of Wausau guidance on the City’s Wausau Water Works page advising that municipal water not be used for a variety of foods — including infant formula — and that it should not be used in any beverages that are consumed.
The City’s lack of timely action has resulted in widespread community frustration and anger, coupled with the disappointment and surprise that the public was not notified sooner once the City was aware of the proposed state standard and the results of the May 2019 testing.
The special February 15, 2022 meeting of Wausau Water Works regarding PFAS in the drinking water can be viewed in its entirety below.