Rhinelander shares their experience with PFAS contamination

A long-term solution is still in the works
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - The city of Wausau learned their wells were contaminated with high PFAS levels last week. Rhinelander has been facing challenges with PFAS for almost three years.

The EPA tested their wells in 2019. When the city found out they had unsafe levels of PFAS for drinking water they shut down the wells. They are still closed. Since then, the city has continued to test their wells in use quarterly on their own.

“Municipalities have a responsibility and obligation to protect the public,” said Zach Vruwink, Rhinelander City Administrator.

They’ve explored options for treatment and for building new, but both are costly. They’re still not sure of the best solution. What is certain is the ‘forever chemical’ doesn’t seem like it’ll be going away anytime soon.

“Many, many, many municipalities are going to encounter PFAS,” said Vruwink.

“It’s going to be a topic of concern and focus for years to come as we go through the rule-making process and establish standards and things like that,” said Kurt Witynski, Deputy Director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

With PFAS in all of Wausau’s wells and one in Rib Mountain, it’s likely others in the area are also contaminated.

“I think municipalities that have not encountered it should start studying up and participating in discussions that are being had on the issue of PFAS,” said Vruwink.

“Nothing is more serious to a city or village,” said Witynski.

Schofield was recently selected by the EPA for PFAS testing. The public works administrator said they’ll take routine samples for several years to gain a better understanding of PFAS. The EPA will be paying for their testing. For the EPAS website click here.

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