MARINETTE — The Marinette City Council received an update from representatives of Johnson Controls Inc., known locally as Tyco, on the situation of groundwater in the city and the Town of Peshtigo contaminated by past leaks of firefighting substances from the Ansul Fire Technology Center. 

Tyco has been conducting an environmental assessment of its facilities and the surrounding areas since November 2017, when the company discovered that per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were present in groundwater beyond company property. PFAS are used in the manufacture of firefighting foams, and two particular PFAS, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), receive special attention from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both are types of synthetic chemical compounds that have been present in firefighting foam and are also present in existing consumer products such as carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and cookware that are resistant to water, grease or stains. 

PFOA and PFOS are being studied by the EPA and other environmental and health agencies and researchers. The EPA has not issued regulatory limits on the substances, but it has issued a health advisory level (HAL) for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. 

Mayor Steve Genisot invited Chris Baron, senior program manager with Tyco, and Jim Cox, senior marketing manager with Tyco, to give the city council an update on the investigation process on Tuesday.

“We’d like to just provide some clarity on where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” Baron said. 

Tyco submitted two work plans to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for continued work on the project, which were approved on April 27. One plan was a long-term potable well sampling plan, primarily implemented in the Town of Peshtigo. Out of the 137 wells tested during the winter after Tyco initially became aware of the contamination, 97 revealed no contamination, 29 revealed PFAS below the health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion set by the EPA and 11 revealed PFAS above the health advisory level. Tyco offered bottled water to the homes which had their wells tested, and is still providing bottled water to 126 recipients. For the 11 homes above the health advisory level, Tyco offered a water filtration system to clean the water before use. Seven accepted the filters, which Baron said were functioning as expected. 

This spring, Tyco tested 129 wells, most of which were repeat tests but some of which were new. Of the 129, 71 revealed no contamination, 23 revealed PFAS below the health advisory level and one above the advisory level. 

Marinette municipal water has tested and continues to test clean. 

The second plan submitted by Tyco is the site investigation plan, which seeks to test area water at all levels. After Memorial Day, Tyco began testing surface water in ponds and ditches. This week, Tyco began testing sediment and groundwater, and will move on to storm water and soil testing, on and off site. He provided the council with a map of the sites to be tested around the City of Marinette. 

“It’s a step-by-step process,” Baron said. “We’re driven by science and results.” 

He said a report will be written on the testing by the end of September, which will direct the investigation from there on. 

Ward 7 Alderman Rick Polzin asked whether the water contamination was going to be resolved eventually or if the PFAS would be a continual presence in the water from now on. Baron said it was “difficult to say,” but that Tyco would “continue to investigate.” 

Ward 3 Alderman John Marx said he had been asked by people affected by the contamination whether the city would be running municipal water to their properties. As the city has an ordinance against running water to properties outside of city limits, he asked Baron where this idea came from. 

Baron said Tyco was beginning to study, “in earnest,” long-term remedies for safe drinking water that would extend beyond filtration and bottled water. 

“We’re studying municipal water and we’re studying new bedrock wells, but these processes take quite some time to follow through on,” he said. “We don’t know yet what the long-term remedy will be.” 

Tyco has several phone numbers for concerned parties to contact with their questions. Those seeking help with basic questions and information about the situation, as well as those interested in setting up a water sampling, can call Arcadis U.S. Inc. toll-free at 1-800-314-1381. Those with questions about the environmental cleanup status and the overall process can call Stephen Ales with the Wisconsin DNR at 608-264-6014 or email him at Stephen.Ales@wisconsin.gov. Those with questions about the health risks associated with the investigation can call Rob Thiboldeaux, a toxicologist with the Wisconsin DNR, at 608-267-6844 or email him at Robert.Thiboldeaux@dhs.wisconsin.gov. 

Tyco is also maintaining a website with updates about the investigation at marinette.tycofpp.com. The City of Marinette will provide informational links on its website, www.marinette.wi.us, as well.