Wausau, Wisconsin, to Study PFAS Reduction in City Wells

Feb. 14, 2022

City leaders said there are currently no advisories for residents to stop drinking city water

Wausau, Wisconsin, will study per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) removal from its drinking water after tests showed elevated levels of PFAS in all six of its wells.

The city's water utility conducted testing for PFAS after the state Department of Natural Resources recommended testing based on a 2019 test result that showed elevated PFAS levels, reported WPR.

January tests showed levels of PFAS in Wausau exceed the proposed state standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for the chemicals. At a Feb. 9 press conference, city leaders said there are currently no advisories for residents to stop drinking city water.

State agencies do recommend residents take steps to reduce their exposure to the water by using specialized filters for drinking water, using purified or filtered bottled water and limiting use of city water in foods that absorb a lot of water.

According to the city, it will also include PFAS-reduction measures into its water treatment plant, reported WPR. City Mayor Katie Rosenberg said these measures will likely take seven months to ensure. 

The city will bring in a mobile treatment facility and set up bottled water refilling stations around the city, reported WPR. 

There are no state regulations in place on PFAS and a judge ruled the DNR has the legal authority to test for the chemicals but not to enforce any action. This decision comes after Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce sued over enforcement efforts, reported WPR. 

All of Wausau's municipal drinking water supply was found to be above proposed state recommendations for PFAS levels. 

"Wausau's situation is a little bit more complicated than some of these other municipalities since every well that we have has tested positive for elevated PFAS levels," said Rosenberg, reported WPR. "Shutting down the wells right now isn't realistic."

The city is launching pilot programs in coming weeks to study PFAS removal and the state's Natural Resources Board will vote on standards this month. 

The agency is proposing a combined drinking water standard of 20 ppt for PFOA and PFOS, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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