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Tests reveal PFAS contamination in 40 La Crosse-area wells

January 14, 2021 GMT

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — Dozens of La Crosse-area wells are contaminated with forever chemicals known as PFAS, tests revealed.

At least 40 wells that provide private drinking water on French Island are contaminated with PFAS levels above recommended standards, the La Crosse Tribune reported Wednesday.

The findings come after La Crosse tested more than 100 private wells downstream from the La Crosse Regional Airport, which is situated on the northern half of the island along the Black River. The island is in the town of Campbell’s jurisdiction, but the city operates the airport. PFAS contamination was first found in wells near the airport in 2016. The chemicals are believed to have originated from firefighting foam used during training and crashes at the airport.


A study found that pressure from Lake Onalaska, on the north end of French Island, moves groundwater southeastward through the island and toward the Black River, helping scientists better track the possible spread of the pollution. The city plans to test another 50 wells near those already tested.

Officials told community members during a public information session Tuesday that 109 wells were tested between last October and Jan. 5. All but one showed some amount of PFAS contamination. Nine of the 40 wells with above-standard contamination had concentrations of at least 1,000 parts per trillion, with the highest level around 3,200 parts per trillion, which is 160 times higher than the state’s current safety threshold.

The chemicals don’t break down easily in the environment and have been linked to cancer, liver disease and reproductive health problems.

The city has deployed $25,000 worth of five-gallon bottles of water to 36 homes on the island. Mayor Tim Kabat said the city will continue to offer water until a long-term solution is found. That could include replacing wells or connecting town residents to city water systems.