City of Madison shuts down Well 15 temporarily

Published: Mar. 4, 2019 at 2:39 PM CST
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Well 15 in Madison will temporarily shut down as the city awaits for a recommended PFAS standard from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

Madison Water Utility said DHS is expected to recommend a PFAS groundwater standard to the Department of Natural Resources sometime in spring.

The Madison Water Utility said they expect Well 15 to meet the DHS’s recommended standard. They plan to bring the well back online this summer.

According to Public Health Madison & Dane County, the levels of PFAS detected at the well are not considered a potential threat to health. They said the water is safe to drink.

The Madison Water Utility said the PFAS detection at Well 15 are far below the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory Level.

"The levels that we're finding in Well 15 are well below the EPA suggested health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion," said Douglas Voegeli, Director of Environmental Health for Public Health Madison & Dane County. "So the water is safe to drink, it's not a threat to the health of the public."

Voegeli said the well has been taken offline out of an "abundance of caution."

The Madison Water Utility said the city will rely on other wells to serve the Well 15 area.

District 17 Alder Samba Baldeh, whose district is serviced by Well 15, said he is glad this issue is being taken seriously.

"The fact that they found PFAS in that water is concerning, but it's good that the water utility has the capability to service this district," he said.

While the water has been deemed safe to drink, some residents in the area are taking extra precautions.

"For me personally, I've been trying to avoid the water since finding out about the chemicals," said Ben Shannon, secretary for the Elken Park Neighborhood Association.

Madison Water Utility said they will have to suspend all PFAS testing at the well since it will be offline.

PFAS are widely used chemicals in firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, and some food packaging.

The Madison Water Utility believes firefighting foam used at the Truax Air Field traveled in groundwater over several decades to reach the well.

Wisconsin National Guard releases statement:

"The safety of our communities, our installations and the populations that live and work on or near our facilities is one of our top priorities. We continue to cooperate with the Wisconsin DNR, local communities and National Guard Bureau to manage the risks of mission-related contamination containing PFOS and PFOA, and we are committed to being good stewards of the environment that we share with the local community. In conjunction with the Air Force, we are using a comprehensive identify, respond and prevent approach to assess the potential for PFOS/PFOA contamination and will respond appropriately as deemed necessary. 

National Guard Bureau contractors visited the 115th Fighter Wing in November 2017 to conduct testing for PFOS and PFOA. They are in the process of compiling a report of their findings, which the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force will use to guide any future actions that may be required. At this time, no PFOS/PFOA exceeding the EPA's established Lifetime Health Advisory has been discovered in any drinking water source as a result of National Guard facilities in the state.

The Wisconsin National Guard is in full compliance with all federally mandated standards and environmental regulations related to PFOS and PFOA, and we look forward to continuing to work with the state, local communities and the Department of Defense to ensure we remain good stewards of our environment."