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Wisconsin DNR concerned by high PFAS levels in Starkweather Creek foam

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin DNR released findings Thursday that show extremely high levels of PFAS in foam at the mouth of Starkweather Creek in Madison.

A sample from October showed 80,000 parts per trillion in the foam and 400 parts per trillion in the water -- both are well above the 70 parts per trillion limit the EPA advises for drinking water.

"It is almost four times the levels we found in the Peshtigo River in the last month or so," said Darsi Foss, administrator of the Division of Environmental Management at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Foss is part of the team testing for PFAS throughout the state, including where Starkweather Creek flows into Lake Monona.

"We had a DNR employee who was coming to work one morning and noticed a pretty substantial amount of white-looking foam at the boat landing," she said -- the white color a result of the PFAS, which was found at levels exponentially higher than recommended drinking water limits.

"Hopefully no one is drinking the water out of Starkweather Creek for beyond PFAS issues, right? For bacteria and other things," she said.

Foss says the results are concerning, and scientists don't know yet what the effect will be on the lake or the fish.

That research is happening right now, as they also work to track down where the PFAS is coming from.

"It may not just be one location," she said. "Certainly, we're partnering with the airport, the Air National Guard, the county and the city to collectively work together to try to figure out where this is coming from."

The highest levels are in the foam and surface water of the creek.

Foss says people who live or work nearby shouldn't be worried about it in their drinking water, but PFAS is known as a "forever chemical," never breaking down or going away.

"Contamination can go for miles," Foss said. "It can go into the soil, into the groundwater, back up into a receiving stream, back up into the groundwater again, into a lake."

It's safest to avoid the foam if you see it, and especially keep your pets and kids away from it.

If you're ice fishing this winter, the DNR recommends avoiding the mouth of the Starkweather Creek.

They hope to release a report examining the impact to fish soon.

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Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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