Town Water Committee Holds Listening SessionIssue Date: February 9, 2022
The Town of Peshtigo (TOP) Ad-Hoc Water Committee Public Listening Session held at Little River Country Club in Marinette on Thursday, Feb. 3 began with a presentation of the Current TOP PFAS Status stating there are approximately 945 parcels in the Town that are in a PFAS Contamination Zone which has resulted in contaminated drinking wells.
The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) determined the PFAS Investigation Areas including 1A identified as the "Study Area', 1B as the Settlement Area outside of the Study Area but within the Expanded Site Investigation Area (ESIA) and 2 is the Rest of the ESIA.
The presentation then moved into an abbreviated timeline starting with when the PFAS contamination was first discovered in 2013 at Tyco's Fire Training Center (FTC). Three years later in 2016 Tyco/JCI reported their PFAS findings to the DNR. In 2017 PFAS was then discovered in Town of Peshtigo drinking wells.
In March of 2019 Tyco/JCI announces water line from Marinette as a solution, although no agreements or discussions have been made. In February 2020 the DNR directed Tyco/JCI to expand testing to ESIA. In May 2020, the TOP hires Von Briesen and Roper, Environmental Law Firm and in August 2020, Tyco/JCI refuses reimbursement of legal expenses to the Town. In October 2020 the Town of Peshtigo Board passes a Resolution to explore City of Marinette Water Extension contingent on items including Tyco/JCI payment of environmental legal bills and a new reimbursement agreement.
In January 2021, TOP voted to send a letter to the City of Marinette regarding water extension, still no reimbursement agreement for environmental representation. In June 2021 a new municipal and environmental representation was selected, a reimbursement agreement was obtained and Strand Engineering was hired.
On July 2nd, 2021, TOP Chairperson Cindy Boyle sent a letter to Marinette City Council and Mayor Steve Genisot asking them to reconsider the upcoming resolution. On July 6, 2021, the City of Marinette passes a resolution stating it will NOT extend municipal water or sell bulk water to the Town of Peshtigo, despite public testimony from multiple Town Supervisors and residents requesting otherwise.
On July 30, 2021 the Town of Peshtigo meeting with Tyco/JCI representatives Katie McGinty and Mary Gade along with DNR representatives, Christine Haag and Kyle Burton. Tyco/JCI acknowledged that the DNR has enforcement authority to determine where JCI is deemed the responsible party, currently the full Expanded Site Investigation Area. Director of Remediation and Redevelopment Program, Christine Haag, stated the site investigation has not been approved and further investigation is needed regarding the movement of the plume as well as air deposition impact.
On August 18, 2021 the TOP sent an invitation to the City of Peshtigo to meet and discuss the potential of long-term safe water options. In September/ October 2021 the DNR led efforts on selection and vetting of a Summit Facilitator and structure with Summit Meeting #1 being held on Dec. 6. On Dec. 10, 2021 the TOP sent a letter to the City of Peshtigo confirming the TOP's desire to continue discussions of the possibility of the City of Peshtigo providing water to the Town of Peshtigo. On Dec. 15, 2021, Summit Meeting #2 was held, On Dec. 15, 17 and 30 and Jan. 19, the TOP continued to request a meeting with JCI and the meeting occurred on Jan. 26, 2022. Dec. 20, 2021 the TOP met with Department of Justice (DOJ) and on Dec. 21, 2021 a Working Group Meeting was held. On Dec. 23, 2021, Tyco/JCI communicated with the WDNR stating they refused responsibility for testing and safe drinking water provision in the Expanded Site Investigation areas 1B and 2, claiming that area was not contaminated by them.
On Jan. 3, 2022 Strand Engineering provided deliverables to the TOP board (see townofpeshtigo.org for PowerPoint presentation) followed by a presentation by Strand on Jan. 6, 2022 of the TOP Water Supply Alternatives Analysis at a special meeting that was open to the public. The full board was also debriefed on the summit discussions and discussed strategy. January 10th, 2022, Attorney Reiter reached out to the City of Peshtigo to schedule discussions for the week of January 24th, 2022. The City of Peshtigo anticipated to have completed the evaluation of their systems capacity, including peer review of Strand data. On January 26, the TOP Summit meeting with JCI was held and that brought the timeline up to date with the listening session being the most recent on Feb. 3.
In early February, the TOP and City of Peshtigo intend to meet and discuss water options and Summit #4 is scheduled for Feb. 15.
At present the TOP water status shows that approximately 35% of TOP Parcels are in a PFAS plume with contaminated drinking water, with a potentially growing plume of contamination. Even though the DNR has found Tyco/JCI to be non-compliant and has referred them to the Department of Justice for enforcement, Tyco/JCI denies responsibility to certain parcels in the Town.
At present, there are four long-term safe drinking water options with the considerations of Cost, Extent and Intergovernmental agreements. Any and all final water systems and options will be subject to Public Service Commission approval. The four options include extension of municipal water lines to the TOP with the City selling water to the Town; The next three options would include a Town operated water district including: City of Peshtigo sells water wholesale to TOP; Deep well outside of plume with the TOP sourcing their own water and surface water sourced from the Bay of Green Bay.
The preferred option is Retail water from the City of Peshtigo with extension of municipal water lines to the Town. Boyle stated, "Because it is the preferred option, it does not automatically make it our reality". The second preferred option would be wholesale water with the Town having their own water district and the City selling wholesale water to the Town.
The meeting then proceeded into the public comment portion of the meeting:
Jeffrey Budish was the first to speak in reference to the biosolids recently spread in our area on Oct. 8, 2021. They spread this recently either in the Town of Peshtigo or the City of Peshtigo. My well has been contaminated for over two years and I have not been provided with water and no-one is claiming responsibility. We need some help here. We are not represented in our district. I invited Elijah Behnke to this meeting and there was no response and no show. We have no political representation representing the people of our 89th District. Why? We need help here. I put a whole water treatment system in at my home that is valued at over $200,000 and I had to pay for that myself. Why isn't JCI stepping up to the plate? Gallagher, Behnke, anyone that represents our district, they are not helping. We are following the Michigan standard of having 70 Parts Per Trillion (PPT) Why do we not have a standard set in Wisconsin"?
Christine Haag stated the DNR will provide a written response on the bio solids issue to the Town and Boyle indicated she will post the answer on the Town website. Haag continued, "We can only regulate if we have specific standards in ground water, surface water and drinking water. Without those standards we don't have legal authority to prevent someone from discharging into surface water. Things get a little unclear of how our department can handle that and what our authority is for that. We are looking at interim strategies and also keep in mind that levels in drinking water are not the same as levels in surface water, fish, biosolids, etc.".
A resident of Shore Drive stated he lives by the "waterway" called Ditch D. We had to force JCI to put a brand new well into our property and when they did they only went 10 feet deeper and stuck it right in the middle of the plume again. I constantly call JCI asking for the test results of Ditch D and they refuse to call me or answer me. Alyssa Sellwood, DNR Site Project Manager responded back stating, "There is data available from Ditch D from 2018 on the DNR website and I will send that list so people have access to it".
Dr James Tandias commented, "Listening to all of these people talk, I feel there are so many unknowns in this situation. We are making several assumptions here and one, there is no desire to do any further testing, which I feel is a big mistake, especially with what the gentleman mentioned about dumping of the biosolids. This is not a static situation, it is dynamic. Even though it may be a very expensive solution we may have to consider getting municipal water. JCI needs to continue to do more testing".
Haag replied, "The DNR agrees more testing is needed, not just in drinking water, but also surface, ground and soil. There needs to be a site investigation that would evaluate what areas are contaminated, with what they are contaminated with and how they became contaminated. The DNR absolutely agrees with that and our correspondence with JCI has continued to reinforce that is the DNRs position. The DNR has limited resources to do this work. We are given 2.3million dollars a year for everything that would happen that people cant respond to and someone needs to take emergency action. It sounds like a lot of money but it is not a lot of money when we have to respond to various contaminations statewide".
Jeff LaMont spoke remotely via zoom and echoed the fact that our representatives don't seem to care about our situation. From what I gather JCI is only willing to pay for the water extension in 1A? The response from Attorney Al Reiter was, "At this point they are discussing providing some sort of water system to this area but we don't have the details as of yet". LaMont reiterated the importance of residents contacting their assembly men and the new senator. Boyle advised residents to go to Townofpeshtigo.org under elections and the links to all our representatives are there on the website.
A former retired teacher, Sandy Cairns said, "I am in that expanded test site area number two which JCI will not provide me with water or a POET system. The DNR did provide me with bottled water. Is the POET system a temporary system and with this system how do you get rid of the filter and what is the cost"?
Kyle Burton, Field Operations Director, Division of Environmental Management, Drinking Water and Groundwater, DNR, replied, "There is no good way to get rid of the carbon filters. They can be disposed of in landfills. We need to pay close attention to the filters time frame when changing any filters. Follow the manufacturers guidelines and directions and test to make sure it is taking care of it. To be overly protective if it says to change every six months, then change it every three months and get it tested yearly. Burton reached out to Cairns after the meeting with his business card for further questions she may have. Boyle added, "Every first Thursday of each month at the Town Hall, we have a Water Committee Meeting at 5 p.m. All are welcome, so come to the meeting and you will learn".
Resident Ruth Kowalski then asked, "I live in the study area and how much PFAS has to be in your water to be provided a POET System in the study area? And with the contamination with the ditches in the area has there been any air quality testing especially in the High School area with all those children". I have been on bottled water for four years and if we settle for the original study area and as it expands, the people in the expanded area will get nothing. I think we should be cautious of what we agree to. I think we should make sure the people in the expanded area and the rest of the township are taken care of before we agree to anything". With emotion, "She said, "I am a teacher, there are so many kids in this area and I care about these kids".
Burton replied, "We would require a corrective or interim action only if the standards in the well are 20 PPT of PFOA and PFAS". Boyle interjected, "The added benefit to a POET system is it eliminates dermal absorption of risk and makes it safe for such things as taking a bath and for cooking, cleaning your dishes and doing your laundry".
Budish ended with, "Just remember anyone's well that is contaminated, everytime you flush your toilet it goes into your septic, everytime you take a shower you are breathing in that PFAS steam, your properties values are worthless right now, you cant sell your property without a disclosure, they have robbed us of all of our earnings for all of our houses, JCI has taken everything from us and we cannot do anything. The reason why the state of Wisconsin is not setting a drinking water standard at less than 70 PPT is because if that standard is lower it will hold corporations accountable for all their actions for the pollution they have caused in Wisconsin. Thats why our Representatives will not push for a set standard for the state of Wisconsin Thats why they can still spread these biosolids because they did not break the law, they are going around the law. Keep that at note, next time we go to vote we have to look at the people who are going to represent us and not just a name".
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