How City of Eau Claire plans to use $1.6 million grant to fight PFAS

Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 9:48 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -A few years ago the City of Eau Claire found PFAS in the water in its wells. Since then, it’s been working to combat the problem. The city hopes some federal dollars could help.

At the water treatment plant in Eau Claire, water that looks like this turns into this before making its way to your home.

Since the city found PFAS--a manmade chemical in its water a few years ago--part of the work done at the plant also includes figuring out how to combat it.

“We’re actually in really good shape still in Eau Claire,” said Lane Berg, the city’s Community Services Director. “Once we found out we had PFAS in the water we took action immediately. We made some operational changes, turning some wells offline that were higher in PFAS levels.”

Berg said changes like that helped reduced the concentration of the chemicals from 17 parts per trillion to 5.24. He said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources standard for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.

While the city’s water is already below that threshold, Berg said they have plans to do more with the help of federal funding that Senator Tammy Baldwin recently helped secure.

“We’re working on the design of a PFAS removal facility out at our water plant, and our plans are to use the money that we received from Senator Baldwin’s office and some of our own CIP money to possibly purchase some vessels,” Berg said. “The vessels hold carbon which the carbon pulls the PFAs from the water.”

Berg said initial cost estimates put the price tag of that removal facility at $24 million. His hope is the city will be able to start construction on the project next year.

Until then, Berg said: “We’re lucky that we’re in the situation we are. We’re still able to utilize half of our wells in our well field and we’re able to meet production. As things are going, I’d say we’re in good position.”

Berg said the city is also looking at other funding opportunities for its PFAS removal facility. That includes potential low to no interest loans through the DNR.