MARINETTE — While the state of Wisconsin and local agencies, departments, and personnel furiously contend with the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency and its fallout of executive and emergency orders, declarations, and various other community impacts, the issues of PFAS (per- and pollyfluoroalklyl substances) continues to subsist in the undercurrent.

Even as many nonessential social, business and governmental activities linger in holding patterns, various operations and discussions related to the PFAS contamination in and around the City of Marinette and Town of Peshtigo remain under active and ongoing processes and investigations.

Today the EagleHerald reports on some of the recent updates.

WELL SAMPLING SUSPENDED DUE TO COVID-19

Tyco Fire Products LP, and Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), submitted their latest work plan related to the sampling of private wells located in the vicinity of 61 area farm fields that received land-spreading of PFAS-contaminated biosolids. That submission reached the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) March 16, about the time that the state’s COVID-19 response began to ramp up significantly.

Initially, according to both, officials from the WDNR and Tyco/JCI, sampling of private wells near those fields had already commenced before submission of the work plan. 

However, as with everything else in life, the rolling consequences of COVID-19 played interference.

Fraser Engerman, director of global media relations for JCI informed the EagleHerald that early sampling actually began in the opening days of March. He said that owners of the wells in question had been contacted for permission allowing technicians to conduct drinking water sampling for PFAS. Moreover, Fraser disclosed that a significant majority of those individuals who responded have already received testing of their wells. 

Dave Neste, a WDNR hydrologist, and the project manager overseeing JCI/Tyco site investigations (including well sampling) in the Marinette area confirmed that testing of the wells had commenced March 2. 

Originally, the sampling was scheduled to be completed by the end of March, supplying results to both individual well owners and the WDNR soon after analysis of those samples wrapped up. In addition, a detailed report on those finding would be submitted to the WDNR sometime later, in May. 

But then COVID-19 took the stage. 

“We informed the DNR that due to health concerns related to COVID-19, we are temporarily suspending testing on the remaining individuals (well owners and landowners) … until April 13,” Engerman said. 

A statement issued on the tycomarinette.com website informed that resumption of testing on April 13 will remain contingent upon the COVID-19 situation at that time. Analysis of samples already collected will continue, according to the statement. Residents and the WDNR will be informed of the results when those analyses are complete. Additionally, Tyco/JCI notified owners of wells that had not yet been sampled of the temporary suspension. 

“We will resume testing as soon as possible,” stated the memo. “We apologize for the delay, but believe this is a prudent step to take at this time.”