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“Are we in imminent danger?” Town of Campbell addresses PFAS concerns

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FRENCH ISLAND, Wis. (WXOW) - More than one hundred people tuned into the Town of Campbell's virtual public hearing Thursday night -- a hearing that spent more than 90 minutes addressing well water contamination due to PFAS chemicals.

As background, the town board explained the emerging research showing how high exposure over time to PFOA, PFOS and other compounds known as "forever chemicals" are linked to adverse health effects. The town also explained the action its taken since learning of the issue last fall.

It stems from the use of FAA-mandated firefighting foam used at the airport, which is part of the City of La Crosse. The city said it stopped using the foam in testing operations at the airport last September.

Recently, the town took it upon itself to test facilities outside the area designated by the city for groundwater study. The town said it found PFAS contamination at the town hall, community center and the highest concentration at the library with a level of about 26 parts per trillion.

Right now, the Wisconsin DNR considers 20 parts per trillion the threshold for safe consumption.

One question posed during the Zoom chat asked bluntly, "Are we in imminent danger?"

Town board members said they sent a letter to the city asking them to provide testing to all town residents back in December. That request was denied. On Tuesday, the town sent a second letter pushing for universal testing with the new data included.

"Everybody that's on this board is also a resident of the Town of Campbell and dealing with the same issues right along with you," said Dist. 4 Supervisor Jason Stratman. "We're doing everything we can and then some right now."

Town board members said because the airport is part of the city, it's the city's responsibility to cover the costs of the effects. As some residents voiced personal health concerns, board members urged individuals to press the city to expand its efforts.

"Put that pressure on the City of La Crosse and let them know that it's up to them to do something sooner rather than later," said Dist. 2 Supervisor Lee Donahue.

The city is currently providing bottled water for residents who live in the designated study area who test above the DNR standard.

Right now, the town is also urging all residents to minimize their consumption of well water and get the testing done despite the personal cost. Testing by the OS Group costs $425.

Congressman Ron Kind's wife shared during the meeting that the representative is seeking federal funding to address PFAS concerns. Both an independent group of residents and the city have representation for pending legal action.

Board members said it's too soon to say if the city would ultimately link the town to the municipal water system. They said they have also not heard back from the city regarding the latest letter.

News app viewers can see the letter here.