TOWN OF PESHTIGO — In letters to Town of Peshtigo residents and town board supervisors mailed June 7, Tyco Fire Protection Products/Johnson Controls updated residents on the move and redesign of its website related to water contamination, ongoing mitigation projects and a submitted a plea for supervisors to approve right-of-way access agreements along township roads. 

The letters from Tyco reference the ongoing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the Town of Peshtigo and surrounding areas. The emerging contaminant family of compounds known as PFAS is a group of substances that can be found in common household products such as stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products and firefighting foams. PFAS in the Marinette County area originates from Tyco, which began using the compounds in the 1970s for firefighting foams and sprays, with chemical testing and training at their local testing site in Marinette. The chemicals used seeped into the groundwater, which the company publicly announced in November 2017. 

In the letter to residents, Tyco informed recipients that its old website domain, www.marinette.tycofpp.com, will now redirect to a new domain, www.tycomarinette.com, where all past and new information posted about the PFAS contamination will be available to view. An archive of the old website will be available at www.tycomarinette.com/archive. 

Along with the new website, Tyco gave updates on: 

¦ Contaminated area ditches, known as Ditch A and B. According to Tyco, the filtration system on Ditch A, which runs through its fire technology center property, has treated 11 million gallons of water since its installation. Work on Ditch B’s similar filtration system is expected to be finished by mid-August. 

¦ Water sampling in the Town of Peshtigo. Tyco said it is re-sampling drinking water wells in the affected area and testing installed point-of-entry treatment (POET) systems in the sampling area. Results from sampling are due in July. 

¦ The possibility of a municipal water line running to affected properties. Tyco has said in the past it believes connecting residents to a municipal water line is the best long-term solution, and has also said it intends to pay for the construction costs of the project. In its letter to supervisors, Tyco said it needed approval on right-of-way access agreements in the Town of Peshtigo “to allow for our surveying crew to finalize the estimates for the water line,” and requested the board hold a special meeting to approve the agreements. 

¦ Proposed legislation regarding PFAS. Tyco said it supported proposals which prevent the use of PFAS-containing foam during training exercises but still allow firefighters to use the foams when fighting fires, referring to a bill proposed in the Wisconsin Legislature by State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette. Tyco also said it supported legislation that funds the scientific research of PFAS compounds. The letters did not address the Chemical Level Enforcement and Remediation (CLEAR) Act proposed by State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and colleagues, which directs the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish acceptable levels and standards, monitoring requirements and response actions for PFAS chemicals that are determined by the Department of Health Services (DHS) to be harmful to human health for drinking water, groundwater, surface water, air, solid waste, beds of navigable waters and soil and sediment.

On May 30, the DNR forwarded a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that Johnson Controls violated state statutes when it discovered PFAS contamination on its property in 2013, but did not report it until 2016. Johnson Controls and Tyco are maintaining that the companies had no obligation to report the contamination in 2013, as it was contained to the fire technology center in Marinette. Full copies of the DNR’s referral can be found at https://dnr.wi.gov/botw/GetActivityDetail.do?detailSeqNo=580694.

Nygren released a statement on Saturday regarding the DNR’s referral, in which he expressed confidence in the DOJ in investigating the matter. 

“Withholding information regarding the safety and health of the public is concerning, especially when it comes to the issue of clean drinking water,” he said. “The state has proper processes to find the truth and hold those responsible accountable, if necessary. I look forward to seeing the results of DOJ’s investigation.” 

Nygren said clean drinking water for his constituents was his “No. 1 priority,” and pointed to his recent vote to provide the DNR with two new scientists and additional resources to study PFAS contamination, as well as a bill proposal to restrict the use of Class B firefighting foams with added PFAS. Nygren has yet to sign onto the CLEAR Act, and has given no indication he intends to do so. 

Nygren also requested a suspension and review of the City of Marinette’s wastewater permit, in regards to the case of PFAS-contaminated biosolids which were spread on local agricultural land. He released a statement on Wednesday chastising the DNR for taking no action on the request. 

“While I appreciate the prompt response, I am concerned the DNR did not take more concrete action on suspending the wastewater utility’s ability to spread biosolids in the future,” he said. “Any spreading activity in the future could continue to perpetuate this problem.” 

The City of Marinette has already ceased spreading its biosolids, and has been testing its water and wastewater quarterly for PFAS contamination. The contaminated biosolids, which were stored in a holding tank at the request of the DNR, are in the process of thickening and de-watering prior to disposal by incineration.