Water Contamination Incident: PFAS in a Small Town

water contamination

Water contamination is an important issue for homeowners, and for good reason. They are the ones responsible for ideal drinking water for their home and family.

In this post, we explore a recent news item from Wausau, Wisconsin, a town with just under 40,000 residents in the middle of the state.

Ms. Danielle Kaeding of Wisconsin Public Radio broke this story on September 4, 2023. We cover some of the most important details in this post.

PFAS in Wausau

Recently, the levels of certain chemicals in Wausau’s drinking water surpassed the recommendations set by state health officials. These chemicals, known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), managed to breach the city’s filtration system.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals, numbering in the thousands, that find use in various products such as cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foam. Research has established a connection between high PFAS exposure and health issues including kidney and testicular cancers, fertility problems, thyroid disorders, and a diminished response to vaccines over time.

Wausau Water Works conveyed to residents this week that their water samples indicated the presence of a combination of PFAS chemicals at concentrations of 22.7 parts per trillion. This slightly exceeds the state’s proposed groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion, as advised by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Further tests revealed PFAS levels of approximately 12 parts per trillion.

Eric Lindman, Wausau’s director of public works and utilities, explained, “We are conducting monthly monitoring, which goes beyond the required frequency. This allows us to better comprehend the performance of our interim solution using resin and anticipate when replacement might be necessary.”

Dealing with PFAS

The city’s newly established treatment facility incorporates a temporary resin filtration system designed to eliminate PFAS from the water supply. Ultimately, this interim system will be replaced by a larger treatment project, estimated at around $15 million, which will employ granular activated carbon to effectively remove these chemicals from the drinking water. To finance this endeavor, Wausau secured approximately $17.5 million in funding. Residents have already witnessed a nearly 65 percent increase in their water rates due to the construction of the new plant.

In the previous year, the state implemented drinking water standards, setting the threshold at 70 parts per trillion in August. Subsequently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed even stricter limits for these chemicals in drinking water, aiming for a mere 4 parts per trillion for two of the most extensively studied PFAS compounds. This represents a substantial increase in stringency compared to the state’s drinking water standard.

Steve Elmore, who oversees the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, clarified that water systems are obligated to inform users when PFAS levels exceed the state’s recommended groundwater standard. However, they are not compelled to take corrective measures unless the levels surpass the state’s drinking water standard of 70 parts per trillion for these chemicals.

What Does This Mean For You?

This incident does not directly affect the tap water supply in Florida, but it’s a stern reminder that water contamination incidents do happen. Local officials are doing their best, but in the final analysis, the buck stops with you.

Investing in purified drinking water can be a very smart move. At Purity Bay, we can’t claim to offer absolute protection against everything. What we can do is offer 15 stages of protection. And that’s fifteen reasons to give you peace of mind!

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Purity Bay specializes in a wide range of home water solutions, including water softeners, reverse-osmosis systems, whole home water filtration systems and anything in between. Whether you need help selecting a water system or servicing an existing system, our experienced team can help you out!

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