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'Standing in the lurch,' communities search for solutions to PFAS contamination

Posted at 10:16 PM, Apr 15, 2024

PESHTIGO (NBC 26) — Trygve Rhude grew up spending his days in the bay of Green Bay. When he bought a house on the water, he knew it was his dream home. Until one day in 2017 when he got a letter from nearby manufacturing company Tyco Fire Products. Since then he and fellow community members have been dealing with water pollution.

  • As we have previously reported along with our partners at TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Gov. Tony Evers recently vetoed a bill which outlined a spending plan for communities impacted by PFAS
  • Called forever chemicals, because they don't break down easily, PFAS are known to pose health risks
  • The state joint finance committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the possibility of releasing the funds

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story.)

The state joint finance committee is meeting Tuesday to talk about funding for communities impacted by PFAS contamination. I'm Pari Apostolakos reporting in the town of Peshtigo where one man tells me how the pollution is impacting his daily life.

Trygve Rhude grew up spending his days in the bay of Green Bay. When he bought a house on the water, he knew it was his dream home. Until one day in 2017 when he got a letter from nearby manufacturing company Tyco Fire Products.

"They had an issue with a spill of a chemical called PFAS," he said. "You know, prior to that, I really didn't have a clue what that material was."

Because they don't break down easily and can stay in the body for a long time, PFAS are known as "forever chemicals."

Within a year, Rhude, like other residents, had a water filtration system put in his home by Tyco and to this day they send him bottled water.

"I'm taken care of right now for a while, but it's not a long term solution," he said.

And PFAS have also gotten into the bay itself.

"Do I let my grandchild come out here and swim in the bay as I did as a kid? There's days out here where there's white foam washing up on the shore, and we never had that as kids," Rhude said. "That's PFAS."

As we've previously reported, town of Peshtigo Chairperson Jennifer Friday says the town would use their share of the $125 million dollars set aside by the state for PFAS impacted communities to offer water testing to all residents. But the state money hasn't been given to the communities.

Rhude feels for his neighbors who live outside the boundary line where Tyco has taken responsibility.

"It leaves everybody standing in the lurch," he said. "The folks just a mile and a half from me here that are on the other side of some imaginary boundary, those are the folks that are hurting. Those are the folks that need that $125 million so that they can have their wells tested."

Andi rich lives in the city of Marinette, which has also had PFAS contamination. After learning about the pollution, she bought her own water filtration system.

She says she thinks even the $125 million isn't enough to deal with the contamination. When she brings up her concerns to elected officials, she says she feels ignored.

"It's just incredibly frustrating. Why are we electing these people if they don't want to listen to us? We elected them and we need help, and we're not getting it," Rich said. "I think the only thing that's finally going to get some action to happen is going to be setting regulations. Setting limits to how much of this is considered acceptable in our water supply, and until that happens, we're just chasing our tails."

The joint finance committee meets Tuesday at 9:30 am. In the town of Peshtigo Pari Apostolakos NBC 26.