Municipal wells contributing to Eau Claire’s drinking water supply did not show elevated levels of PFAS chemicals found in other wells that the city took offline earlier this month.
The latest round of testing focused on six wells located close to four others that were shut off from the city’s water system on July 8, when they tested positive for amounts of the human-made chemicals believed to pose health concerns.
“We’re happy we were able to isolate our slightly-elevated wells,” said Lane Berg, city utilities manager. “Right now things look good, but we will keep an eye on it.”
The city got results Friday afternoon from water samples taken on July 14 from the wells, and testing will continue on a regular basis. Wells close to the contaminated ones will be tested every two weeks in addition to a sample of water coming out of Eau Claire’s treatment plant.
Berg is “cautiously optimistic” that the PFAS contamination will remain isolated, but the city is taking steps to ensure that.
The city has hired civil engineering firm Gannett Fleming to do in-depth mapping to show how groundwater is flowing in land where the 16 municipal wells are located on Eau Claire’s north side.
“That’s going to tell us which direction the PFAS could follow based on groundwater flows,” Berg said.
That research is expected to be finished by the end of this week to inform further actions the city would take to prevent contamination from affecting more wells.
As for the four wells shut off due to elevated PFAS levels, they have not been pumping since July 8. But to prevent the contaminated water in them from spreading underground, the city does plan to get them pumping again, but not into the drinking water supply.
“They will not be contributing to the plant, but they will be dumping water to waste,” Berg said.
The city is awaiting approval from the state Department of Natural Resources to build a pipeline from the affected wells to man-made lagoons typically used to handle backwash from the filters at Eau Claire’s Water Treatment Plant.
Meanwhile an Eau Claire company located about seven miles south of the city’s water plant is dealing with an unrelated case of PFAS contamination.
WRR Environmental Services announced on Friday that water samples from its property and neighboring Lowes Creek County Park tested positive for PFAS levels exceeding state standards.
The company sent a letter to the owners of 17 nearby properties, offering to test their private wells for PFAS. As of Wednesday, WRR was still awaiting responses to see which landowners were interested in getting their wells tested.
Once it hears back from those neighbors, getting their water samples analyzed is expected to take a few weeks and the company doesn’t expect results until later this summer.
“WRR is focused on completing the sampling effort and assessment activities and will assess appropriate next steps once that is complete,” the company stated on Wednesday.
In its initial news release on Friday, WRR said it believes its contamination is from the use of firefighting foam and not its industrial processes. WRR’s facility at 5200 Ryder Road was the site of a major fire in 2007 and a smaller one in 2010.
The company handles hazardous waste and specializes in recycling solvents, but stated that its services do not include PFAS-containing materials.
Known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment, PFAS are a group of chemicals used since the 1950s in the production of non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and some kinds of firefighting foams.
Scientists are still studying health effects of various PFAS on humans, the state Department of Health Services states on its website. Not all PFAS have the same health effects, but research suggests that high levels of certain chemicals may raise cholesterol levels, decrease how well bodies respond to vaccines, increase risk of thyroid disease, lower fertility in women, increase risk of conditions including high blood pressure in pregnant women, and result in slightly lower infant birth weights.