PFAS News & Actions in Dane County
In Dane County, there is a multi-agency action team that includes departments representing water, human health, and the environment working on PFAS contamination and remediation.
Recording of a Public Meeting on PFAS in Starkweather Creek
We discussed how eating fish and touching water from Starkweather Creek can affect your health. We shared results of the PFAS tests from Starkweather Creek fish.
Identified Sources of PFAS Contamination & Remediation Plans
In the City of Madison, known sources of PFAS contamination are Truax Field Air National Guard Base and the Regional Airport due the use of firefighting foams at the sites.
Work is underway with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Air National Guard, Dane County, and City of Madison to address the PFAS contamination. This contamination is linked to PFAS being found in stormwater discharge, area wells, and nearby surface water.
Due to the wide variety of products and materials that employ PFAS compounds, additional sources of exposure to ground and surface water can include landfills and certain businesses and manufactures.
Madison Well Water Testing Plans & Results
Madison Water Utility is monitoring drinking water supplies in all municipal wells for potential PFAS contamination. In 2019, the testing of all 23 City of Madison wells reported that three wells (Wells 9, 15, and 27) had low levels of PFAS detection and 11 additional wells had trace level detection. All wells were tested for at least 24 PFAS compounds including PFOA and PFOS. Madison Water Utility tested all wells again and found that all of them had detections of PFAS.
All test results are below both the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory level and the Wisconsin Recommended Groundwater Enforcement Standards. More information on municipal well testing and results is available through the Madison Water Utility.
Surface Water Testing Plans & Results
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is conducting three rounds of surface water testing of Starkweather Creek in Madison.
Starkweather was chosen because the headwaters of the West Branch of Starkweather Creek originate on or near Truax Field Air National Guard Base and the Dane County Regional Airport, known sources of PFAS contamination. Other historical sources of contamination are also likely located in the Starkweather Creek watershed.
On 12/2/2019, residents near Starkweather Creek received a letter outlining what we know and don’t know about PFAS in the area, as well as what residents should do to protect themselves from PFAS. Signs have been posted along public access points to Starkweather Creek to make sure creek users are aware of the presence of PFAS.
Results from the first round of surface water testing showed elevated levels of PFOA and PFOS in the water. Results from the second and third round of sampling will be critical to determine if the patterns are consistent and to guide future response activities – results are expected later this year. PFAS contamination is also expected in the sediments of the Starkweather Creek site.
The City of Madison, Dane County Regional Airport, and the Wisconsin Air National Guard have all been named responsible for causing PFAS contamination in Starkweather Creek. More information about remediation actions can be found on WI DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Database (Activity # 02-13-584369).
Although coming in contact with water that has PFAS present is not an immediate health concern, it is recommended that people avoid drinking or accidentally swallowing surface water and avoid handling sediments or foams potentially contaminated with PFAS compounds. After playing or wading in water or handling sediments, wash hands and rinse pets with clean water to prevent ingesting PFAS that may be on skin or fur.
Dane County Regional Airport Stormwater Discharge
In 2019, the Dane County Regional Airport was required to complete testing for PFAS in order to renew their permit for stormwater discharge at the airport. Testing revealed PFAS in the stormwater that will require investigation and cleanup of the site. More information about remediation actions can be found on WI DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Database (Activity #02-13-584472).
Fish Tissue Testing & Results
In 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources collected fish for fish tissue sampling in the mainstem of Starkweather Creek and near the mouth of Lake Monona.
Given results of surface water testing, we expect to find detectable levels of PFAS in the fish tissue. Consumption of fish containing elevated levels of PFAS is a potential human health concern. Current Dane County fish consumption advisories are in place because fish caught in Dane County contain chemicals like mercury and PCBs. The advisories do not consider PFAS levels at this time. As more information about PFAS in fish tissue is gathered, guidelines could change.
In addition to the Starkweather Creek fish testing, a comprehensive fish contaminant monitoring project is planned on Lake Monona targeting a variety of species for PFAS and other contaminants in the Spring of 2021.
Sewage & Wastewater Testing & Treatment
Wastewater treatment plants are not a source of PFAS, but many industries that have historically used PFAS may be discharging these compounds into sanitary sewers. As long as PFAS are in everyday use consumer products it will be impossible not to convey some PFAS through the wastewater treatment process and into biosolids.
In July 2019, the WI DNR requested that 125 municipal wastewater treatment facilities sample water coming in and water going out for PFAS compounds to gain a better understanding of how and where PFAS contaminants could be entering the air, land and waters of the state. This includes the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and the Sun Prairie Wastewater Treatment Facility.
More information about how Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District is addressing PFAS can be found on their PFAS webpage.
Drinking Water Testing Recommendations for Municipal and Private Wells
Testing the public water systems for PFAS is not a requirement. Residents should contact their municipality if they would like to know about PFAS testing in their community, however the majority of public water systems in Dane County do not test for PFAS.
Public Health Madison & Dane County recommends that public water systems and private well owners test for PFAS if they are near:
- A military base or area that has been used for firefighting activities
- An industrial area with frequent PFAS manufacture, disposal, or use
- A previously used landfill area
The following laboratories are able to analyze PFAS compounds in drinking water at low detection limits: