Well 15 out of service indefinitely due to PFAS contamination

Published: Aug. 27, 2019 at 9:31 AM CDT
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Officials from Madison Water Utility said Well 15 on East Washington Avenue will remain out of service for the foreseeable future.

As NBC15 reported, Well 15 in Madison was shut down in March, as a precaution for PFAS contamination.

Earlier this year, a measurement of PFAS compounds in the groundwater showed water in Well 15 was well below the recommended level, but officials are keeping the well offline out of an "abundance of caution" and until further testing can be done.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommended a standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for two PFAS compounds called PFOA and PFOS. At Well 15, PFOA and PFOS measured at a combined 12 ppt.

Madison Water Utility said there are uncertainties related to the presence of other PFAS compounds beyond the two tested. Well 15 will remain out of service until DHS recommends groundwater standards for an additional 34 types of PFAS, which it is currently investigating. These recommendations are expected in the fall of 2020.

PFAS are a widely used class of chemical compounds found in firefighting foams, nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpet and upholstery. Madison Water Utility said the compounds are extremely difficult to break down and are now showing up in dust, air, groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams.

Well 15 is an important water supply on the east side of Madison, but officials say because of continued conservation in the city, it has been possible to meet demand and fire protection storage in the area with the well offline.

If Madison experiences a prolonged dry spell or a mechanical failure at another well on the east side, Madison Water Utility said they will call for voluntary or mandatory water restrictions in that part of the city.

Well 15 would only be used if, even with water restrictions, Madison Water Utility is unable to fill Madison's reservoirs. Bringing a well back into service takes a minimum of about one week.

Officials said they are working to determine the most cost-effective way to replace the water supply provided by Well 15. Treatment of the water supply is one solution, but adding an additional supply point instead might be more cost-effective.

PFAS treatment at Well 15 is not included in the Water Utility's 2020 budget request. However, $82,000 to perform an alternatives analysis study for the well is projected for 2021.