DNR spending $500K+ on bottled water for French Island, long-term solutions still being developed

PFAS contamination has forced French Island residents to turn exclusively to bottled water
PFAS contamination has forced French Island residents to turn exclusively to bottled water(WEAU)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:42 PM CDT
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FRENCH ISLAND, Wis. (WEAU) - Residents of French Island have been forced to use bottled water ever since PFAS chemicals were discovered in the island’s wells.

Town of Campbell Supervisor Lee Donahue says even though a drinking water advisory has been in place since March, it’s still been a tough transition.

“People talk to me, I walk throughout the neighborhood every single day, and they’re frustrated, and they’re angry because this is something that was totally out of our control,” Donahue explained. “This occurred through no fault of our own, and so there’s an element of anger, there’s an element of frustration.”

Donahue says the Town of Campbell Board has been engaged in numerous discussions over creating long-term solutions to providing clean drinking water.

She adds the biggest key to making a plan is to understand the scope of the contamination, which was helped by well testing earlier this year.

“Of the 550 plus homes that have been tested on the island, fewer than 3% have shown no contamination,” Donahue detailed.

While alternative water methods are mapped out, the Wisconsin DNR will continue to provide bottled water at a hefty price tag.

West Central Region Team Supervisor David Rozeboom says the DNR is spending $550-$600,000 per year on bottled water distribution.

As the situation stands now, that figure will be on the books for the foreseeable future.

“We have not identified a specific point in time where we will be ending our bottled water contract,” Rozeboom said. “It’s dependent upon the state of the fund...it’s also dependent upon the status of the site investigation.”

Donahue says the Town of Campbell has hired an engineering firm to develop a plan for providing chemical-free water.

“Whatever our long-term solution, we need to make certain that we are filtering out as many contaminants as we possibly can,” Donahue added.

At the moment, there is no timeline on how long it will take to make the island’s water safe.

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