MARINETTE (NBC 26) — Johnson Controls International and Tyco Fire products will conduct an investigation this summer to uncover the extent of PFAS contamination in Marinette County. At a listening session Wednesday, the Wisconsin DNR explained the next steps in the PFAS cleanup, which has left many without clean drinking water.
Last month, the Wisconsin DOJ filed a lawsuit against the companies, alleging that the companies failed to notify the state about a PFAS discharge from its Fire Technology Center back in 2013. In addition to that discharge, the companies are also investigating contamination from land-spreading biosolids from a waste water treatment plant.
“I was mortified that they let us drink it for three years before they told us our water was contaminated," said town of Peshtigo resident Ruth Kowalski.
Kowalski's home was a part of the initial plume of water that was contaminated by the discharge from the Fire Technology Center. She has now been without clean drinking water for four and a half years.
“I personally tell my grandchildren when they’re here not to take a bath in my house," Kowalski said. "If they insist on showering, it’s very minimal, quick and out.”
Not only is she nervous about bathing in her own water, but she can also no longer use her own garden or fields due to possible contamination in the soil. Because she was a part of the initial plume, she has been given bottled water by Tyco. However, Tyco has declined to provide bottled water to those in what the DNR calls the Expanded Site Investigation Area, in which the DNR states there are more wells that have also been impacted by the contamination.
In addition, the DNR asked JCI and Tyco to test more wells that could be affected by the biosolid contamination, but the companies declined, opting instead to provide bottled water to homes as they investigate.
“We think there could be others affected and so we’ve asked them to step out and sample those additional drinking water wells as well as to provide water and they have opted to just go ahead and provide the drinking water,” said Christine Haag, the director of the DNR Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment.
As the DNR and JCI and Tyco look for long term solutions, residents like Ruth are left without answers.
“The fact that they still are dragging their feet about getting water for everyone, I feel for those young mothers that must bathe their children in this. It’s unconscionable," Kowalski said.
To learn more and to receive Marinette and Peshtigo contamination updates, you can visit dnr.wisconsin.gov