EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
John Perkins, Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety for Johnson Controls, speaks to a crowd at the Embers 1871 during a PFAS community update Wednesday in Peshtigo.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

John Perkins, Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety for Johnson Controls, speaks to a crowd at the Embers 1871 during a PFAS community update Wednesday in Peshtigo.

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PESHTIGO — In a major development at its open house and community update Wednesday, Tyco Fire Protection Products announced that the corporation would be pursuing and financing the laying of City of Marinette municipal water and wastewater lines to properties with private wells affected by contamination from its Marinette fire testing center. 

The open house and community update at Embers 1871, located at W3529 County Trunk B in Peshtigo, featured a panel of speakers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Tyco and its parent company Johnson Controls, and Tyco’s hired design and consultancy firm Arcadis. Dozens of area residents and concerned citizens came to listen to an update and ask questions about ongoing water contamination in the Town of Peshtigo and surrounding areas, which Tyco is trying to mitigate. 

Tyco, before its purchase by Johnson Controls, began using PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) in the 1970s for firefighting foams and sprays, with chemical testing and training at their local testing site. The chemicals used seeped into groundwater outside of the site, which the company announced in November 2017. Since then, Tyco has been conducting an environmental assessment of its facilities and the surrounding areas in cooperation with the DNR. A health advisory level (HAL) for PFAS of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) was set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2016 for drinking water, after studies of the chemicals’ effects over time showed a variety of adverse health effects affecting reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological systems.

Tyco is primarily focusing on two PFAS compounds — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) — in the affected private wells in the Town of Peshtigo and contaminated surface water ditches. So far, the company has stuck to testing and addressing contaminated wells on a case-by-case basis, but John Perkins, Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety for Johnson Controls, announced Wednesday evening that Tyco would be moving forward with a more long-term solution. 

“The company is committed to providing the capital cost to construct a municipal water line to the affected residents within the (Town of) Peshtigo study area,” he said. “We have started those discussions recently, with not only the township of Peshtigo leaders, but also the City of Marinette and the DNR.” 

Perkins said Tyco is hoping to stick to a rough, two-year timeline for the municipal water connection, with engineering and plan proposals in 2019 and construction beginning in 2020. Currently, however, there are no plans available for where the water lines will begin and end, who will be eligible for the municipal water extension and what actions the City of Marinette will take as far as annexation of the land goes. 

“We do not have a line drawing yet that indicates where these lines will be located,” Perkins said. “As we continue down this pathway, hitting milestones, we will continue to share this information with the residents to help understand it.” 

The announcement was met with a few favorable remarks by those attending, but it raised further questions that Tyco does not yet have answers for, such as who would be paying the bills for the added water lines, whether sites affected by future spread of PFAS could be added to the water line plans and what would happen if a resident in the affected area decided to opt out of the municipal water supply. 

“You want to plan for the future state,” Perkins said. “I can tell you the majority of this year will be around those engineering design studies to evaluate where those lines should be located, and as we develop those, we will share it with the DNR, the City of Marinette, and obviously the residents as well.” 

As far as projected cost goes, Perkins said the company is viewing the project as “a multi-million dollar solution.” He added that Tyco is committed to paying for the project in its entirety. 

Editor’s note: This story is one of two articles regarding the PFAS open house and community update. A second article will run in Friday’s EagleHerald.