Eau Claire city officials say service not affected despite PFAS

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The City of Eau Claire has taken three more water wells offline due to PFAS contamination.

That brings the total number of wells not being used because of contamination to seven. The city has 16 total.

The city’s Utilities Manager, Lane Berg, said the city can easily meet demand using nine wells. People’s consumption habits don’t need to change.

“The water’s still safe,” he said. “Do not make any alternative plans. Do not make any alternative plans. You do not need to consider boiled water or bottled water or anything like that. It’s still safe. And what we’re doing out here is proactive. We’re getting ahead of this instead of waiting for it.”

The city has started pouring contaminated water from the three most recently affected wells into an auxiliary lagoon.

Berg said the four wells originally discovered to have PFAS are not being used.

He said water from the recently contaminated wells needed to be disposed so it didn’t seep into other wells.

“This is helping us short term,” Berg said. “A long-term fix may be something more extensive such as a treatment system, drilling additional wells in different locations, other options we haven’t considered yet.”

He said the city’s working with a consulting firm. It hopes to create a long-term plan by the end of 2021.

As for how the PFAS entered Eau Claire’s groundwater, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Hydrogeologist Matt Thompson said it likely came from the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.

“We think they would be the source given their prior use of firefighting foam but we can’t confirm the exact source,” he said.

Thompson said the airport will be leading an investigation into the cause. The DNR will oversee the probe.

Berg said the water currently being dumped into the auxiliary lagoon is considered safe according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines. However, since the city doesn’t have an issue meeting current water demands, about 10 million gallons daily, with nine uncontaminated wells, the city is being extra cautious keeping those three wells offline.

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