MARINETTE — The State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is holding a Listening Session in Marinette on Feb. 19 to seek public input on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination in the Marinette-Peshtigo area.

Representatives from the DNR and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be on hand from noon to 2 p.m. and again from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Marinette Community REC Center, 2501 Pierce Ave. Officials will provide a brief overview, answer questions and hear concerns from community members regarding the PFAS investigation, cleanup and any health-related issues in the Marinette and Town of Peshtigo areas.

DHS and DNR staff will also be available from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to address one-on-one questions from the public. Questions may be submitted in advance by email: DNRJCIPFAS@wisconsin.gov, or via voicemail message at 888-626-3244.

Starting in the 1950s PFAS became widespread throughout a variety of industrial and commercial products such as Teflon, non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and fire-fighting foams. The substances are known for their high heat tolerance and water resistance qualities as well as their adverse tendency to bio-accumulate and persist for decades or longer in the environment. 

Following intensive research in the early 2000s, scientific findings from organizations like the C8 Science Panel, revealed strong evidence showing a probable link between PFAS exposure and high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension

Prior to its purchase by Johnson Controls Inc., Tyco Fire Products LP, used aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), a firefighting foam, at its local testing facility in Marinette during the 1970s and following decades. PFAS from those foams leached into surrounding groundwater. It resulted in widespread environmental contamination of PFAS in various water sources and the Marinette wastewater treatment system. In 2017, JCI and Tyco, in conjunction with the DNR began the long process of remediation and redevelopment of that contamination.

The DNR is also in the process of planning additional Listening Sessions beyond the Feb. 19 event and will share that information during the meeting.