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Mayor supports task force to study chemical found in Madison well

MADISON (WKOW) — Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said Friday that he supports the creation of a task force to address PFAS contamination coming from Truax Field.

According to Madison and Dane County Public Health, the main health concern from PFAS is increased cholesterol levels.

Those chemicals are used to create water and oil repellent materials, such as those found in firefighting foams, food packaging and nonstick cookware.

Madison’s Well 15 had been under scrutiny because of PFAS being detected in the water.

“This issue is beyond the sole purview of Madison Water Utility and this collaborative group should include Dane County, the Department of Natural Resources, Public Health Madison Dane County, the State Health Department, Wisconsin National Guard and Madison Water Utility,” Soglin said in a news release.

The mayor went on to say:

A consortium of local, state and federal officials must provide citizens with ample
opportunities to remain engaged in this effort. The task force should expand and continue
the use of the Water Utility’s PFAS email listserv, provide opportunities for citizen
participation, and of course will continue to adhere to publicly accessible meetings and
reporting about the task force’s discussions, conclusions and recommendations. Madison
Water Utility did not cause this problem, but they will be willing participants in finding a
solution which will assure the continued availability and delivery of safe water for all
residents of the city.

27 News has earlier reported that a group of Madison residents have started a petition to persuade the city to shut down Well 15 in Madison.

Amy Barrilleaux with Madison Water Utility does admit that the PFAS exists at Well 15 but with a caveat.

“The levels at this well, when we’re talking about parts per trillion, are very very low,” Barrilleaux said.

The number is around 40 parts per trillion as of the most recent test in October. The EPA says any level above 70 parts per trillion is unhealthy.

But Barrilleaux says there has been an increase in PFA levels since a recent test showed levels of 5 parts per trillion, which is so small she doesn’t know if it’s an instrument issue or a real concern.

She says much of those chemicals are coming from Truax Airfield, from the firefighting foam that was used there.

While no longer in use, it takes 35 to 50 years for groundwater to travel from the airfield to the well.

Earlier in February, the Madison Water Utility Board voted to take several measures to address concerns over the well.

“Typically you would shut down a well when there’s an immediate threat, when people are going to be harmed by consuming that water,” Barrilleaux said.

She added that shutting it down would limit the necessary research needed to find out where the real concern might lie.

As of now, no wells are expected to be shut down.

According to the Madison and Dane County Public Health Department, there aren’t any wells in the city that are considered a potential threat.

“I think people may have an expectation of all of their water to be contaminant free, that’s not the case,” Barrilleaux said. “That’s why the EPA has different levels that it establishes for different types of contaminants.”

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