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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Agencies Address Marinette Water Contamination Issues

Issue Date: December 14, 2017

Peshtigo Town Hall was filled on Monday, Dec. 11 for a public meeting to discuss testing of groundwater that is being conducted within a limited area in the northeast corner of the town. This encompasses the areas between County Road B, County Road BB, Rader Road, Green Gables Road and University Drive.

There were several people presenting information and answering questions from concerned residents, including Mike Bedard from Aracadis, an Environmenal Science and Engineering firm hired by Tyco to do investigative work; Robert Thiboldeaux, Ph.D, State of Wisconsin Senior Toxicologist Bureau of Environmental Occupational Health from the DHS (Department of Health Services); Roxanne Chronert, Northeast Region Remediation and Redevelopment Team Supervisor, and Dave Neste (Hydrogeologist, Project Manager Green Bay Service Center, both from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), and Jim Cox representing Tyco. Bedard was the main speaker, assisted by the other agencies answering questions relating to their expertise.

Through a data base within the DNR, they were able to determine there were approximately 60 wells in the vicinity of the area they are looking at. Invitations were sent to those 60 Town of Peshtigo residents of the possible affected areas to attend the public meeting to better inform them of the testing and also encourage those residents with wells in that area to have their wells tested with no cost to them.

It was determined chemicals from Tyco testing property migrated with groundwater off the Tyco property in the City of Marinette. City water was tested and seems to be fine, but because groundwater moves down hill and in an easterly direction the area affected would be the northeast section in the Town of Peshtigo.

Since the town's water supply is mainly from private wells, it was determined the northeast section of the Town of Peshtigo could possibly be contaminated. Testing of groundwater is being done in the northeast section of the Town for the presence of two compounds PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid). These two components are part of a larger group of chemicals commonly referred to as PFASs (Perfluoroalkyl Substances). These PFAs are stain, water and grease resistant and therefore are used in making carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, food packaging, cookware and also used by specialty firefighting firms, as in the case of Tyco Fire Products, LP.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established Health Advisory Levels (HAL) with a lifetime exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water with a safe level of 70 parts per trillion. Borings were done in 16 areas within the encompassed area of County B and BB with multiple ground water samples collected to determine if there was any detection or not. In some instances there were non-detect, some were non-detect but with a slight level above the HAL, some were detect, but below the HAL and some were above the suggested HAL.

Bedard explained to the residents the process used to collect the samples was a direct push method with a piston being pushed down into the soil, ground water is collected and then tested at an onsite testing lab with immediate results.

He emphasized to residents to get their wells tested. A sign up sheet was available for them to give permission for their wells to be tested along with various informational handouts. It will take approximately 30 minutes to test their well and water.

Following are many questions from the residents that were answered by Thiboldeaux: What is the source of the contamination? The burn area at the Tyco test site is the source. Chuck Boyle asked how much contamination is there? As the plume moves farther, from the source the contamination gets less and less. How far down did they drill? For the most part the drillings were approximately 50 feet. Do they plan on doing health studies? The first step is to sample the wells first. Anyone concerned about health issues, can contact their doctor and let them know there may have been exposure to these chemicals.

Other questions were asked that were answered by Bednard that included: What depths did they drill and where did they find contamination? The depths were 15 to 30 feet. Generally contamination is more deeply impacted in shallow wells versus deeper wells. Historically there is less impact in deeper wells. Again he emphasized there is more work to be done, it is in the beginning stages.

How long does it take for the results of the well testing? Depending on how many sign up for the testing it should take about two weeks for sampling and then will be sent to lab. What are the concerns if there is contamination? The only concern is consumption, not skin contact.

Other questions asked included: If contaminated can this be decontaminated? What are the concentrations of what has been tested? These could not be answered due to more investigation, testing and work to be done has to be completed before an answer can be given. We have to let the process work out. This is in the beginning stages and we don't have all the answers.

Duane Panske pointed out that 70 parts per trillion was "just a small dust particle, and asked if its that small what illness would arise from contamination"? Thiboldeaux said "Seventy parts per trillion, that is a very, very small amount. In comparison if you think of "seven drops of water from an eye-dropper in an Olympic size swimming pool, that's the concentration we're talking about."

He said the concern was for one of two reasons: either it's an extremely toxic chemical or it builds up in the body. "In this case it's the latter". These compounds can build up in your body over time. These chemicals are widely used and don't break down quickly when they build up. A concern is if they build up in expecting mothers then through the fetus and through breast milk. But in this case, the levels are low and would have to be much higher that that to have a damaging effect. For those that work around these chemicals on a daily basis in high concentrations, it can cause liver problems.

Sandra Barber asked "What is the trigger or precipitating event that lead to the need for the well testing"? Chronert from the DNR explained "PFCs are an emerging chemical, which is why the EPA at this point only has a Health Advisory level, which is the 70 parts per trillion. "So we said to Tyco, we'd like you to sample for PFCs".

A speaker asked how long have these chemicals been used at the facility and where is the Tyco representative and why are they not informing us of the situation?

Tyco representative, Jim Cox said the chemicals have been used since the 70's. He also stated, "Tyco has been totally transparent in this and are keeping the people informed. This is the purpose of this meeting. Tyco is being proactive and testing is being done to make sure wells are safe". He also stated he has lived in this area all his life and has friends and family here and wants to make sure they are all safe as well. He stated he trusts what Tyco has done in assessing the situation and going above and beyond what was required.

Bednard said if there is any contamination it will be taken care of, but it is too early to tell and there is more investigative work and testing to be done. Each situation is different, so it depends on the outcome of what the next approach is.

Chronert of the DNR ended with asking the residents to have patience with them. "It is a process that we need to work through and we are going to do everything to make sure your drinking water is safe".

A second letter was sent to arrive on Dec. 12 providing background information, fact sheets with toll free 800 phone numbers to call to schedule sampling if they chose not to sign up at the meeting and also to ask any questions or concerns they may have that weren't addressed at the meeting. There will also be contact information for the DHR and DHS along with a permission sheet to allow sampling of their well. Anyone with questions can call 800-314-1381.


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