MARINETTE — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sent a Notice of Noncompliance October 16 to Johnson Controls, Inc. and its subsidiary company Tyco Fire Products LP after a deadline passed that required those entities to submit a detailed sight investigation (SI) plan. The plan was to address farm fields in Marinette County where City of Marinette wastewater biosolids – contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – had been spread over the past several decades.

When JCI/Tyco failed to meet the October deadline the DNR extended the date to November 15, yesterday. 

Tyco hit that deadline, submitting the SI around noon on Friday. 

“This plan complies with (DNR’s) requests and outlines the essential first stage in developing a comprehensive solution to the biosolids issue,” stated a media release from Tyco. “We want to expedite this matter in a scientific, data driven manner – and the approach we have taken here is best and standard practice followed by regulators across the country, including Environmental Protection Agency and the DNR itself.”

The SI plan submitted to the DNR divides the work into a Phase One data-gathering process and a Phase Two that involves the actual soil sampling and potable well and surface water sampling in the areas of 16 private fields identified by the DNR. 

“We are committed to the community and to the (DNR’s) request that we will pay for an independent consultant of their choosing … so the (DNR) can maintain control over the investigation,” said Vice President, Environment, Health, & Safety for JCI John Perkins during a phone interview with members of the City of Marinette news media.   

According to the plan and comments provided by Perkins, Phase One involves gathering data to determine the historical source of biosolid materials spread on the various field in question. Such data also remains critical for clarifying the parameters, locations and depths of sampling for the Phase Two portion of the SI plan. 

According to Perkins, acquiring such historical data will allow the DNR to identify additional sources of PFAS that may have contributed to biosolid contamination in those areas.  

More specifically, Phase 1 will review various historical data such as municipal and industrial land-spreading permits and identify other potential sites affected by PFAS contamination within the designated areas. It would also include interviews of local officials, DNR regional staff and local residents who have lived or worked in the areas of interest.  Perkins expects Phase One of the plan to last over a 3- to 4-month period and serve as an assessment phase of the various sites.

Based on its findings, a comprehensive development of the Phase Two work plan can be created to allow for more accurate soil sampling and potable well sampling, according to Perkins. He further stated that because information is limited regarding the deposit and accumulation of biosolids on the 16 fields, Phase One is necessary to inform officials before they proceed with the sampling.

“All that is known, today, is that there were records showing the deposition on these 16 fields,” Perkins said. “But there is really no reference by way of location or other documents or interviews, so a lot of that activity (will be) memorialized in this very comprehensive Phase One work plan.”

According to Tyco’s media release, the DNR holds data showing that PFAS compounds are coming from sources unrelated to Tyco and its firefighting foam. The release also stated that the community has a right to know where those PFAS sources originated so protections can be implemented. 

Additionally, Perkins emphasized that the DNR still has the legal responsibility under Wisconsin law to identify those other sources of contamination.   

At this point, the DNR still needs to review and agree to the plan. Additionally, the department will need to identify an independent third-party consultant to perform Phase One work. Perkins expects these actions could occur over the winter months, potentially setting the stage for a thorough review of the data followed by implementation of Phase Two fieldwork sometime in 2020.   

“We do stand to work with (the DNR) collaboratively to ensure that we continue to support the communities in and around Marinette,” Perkins said. 

“We have always stood behind our responsibilities in the communities around Marinette and the Town of Peshtigo. We will continue to do so – and we are hopeful that (DNR) will follow the law and work with us in an expeditious manner,” the media statement affirmed.

To read the full version of the SI plan, “Biosolids Landspreading Phase 1 Investigation Work Plan,” visit tycomarinette.com and click on DNR work plan submission.