Rhinelander shuts down a second well due to PFAS contamination
By Lori Adler, reporter
Well #8 in the City of Rhinelander water system was shut down Friday due to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination. Mayor Chris Frederickson sent a press release today stating his decision, explaining he felt the well closure was necessary to protect area residents.
Back in July, the city responded to high PFAS readings in Well #7 by shutting down the well indefinitely. The city stated at that time that it would continue monthly testing for PFAS in all city wells, including well #7. Just last month, however, reports from the city indicated that PFAS levels in all wells, including well #7, continue to remain within acceptable levels, leading some city officials to question the accuracy of the testing that first indicated high levels in Well #7.
Wisconsin DNR (Department of Natural Resources) responded to the city, stating they had no reason to question the validity of the testing and explained that the now low PFAS level in Well #7 was probably due to the well being inactive.
While a standard on acceptable PFAS levels has yet to be set by the state, there have been some guidelines, and it is in response to these guideline levels that Mayor Frederickson felt it was necessary to shut down a second Rhinelander well. According to the mayor’s press release today, a teleconference between the city and the DNR and state and county health services took place Monday, during which the DNR and health agencies indicated support for the mayor’s decision to shut down Well #8.
Mayor Frederickson noted that the well closure does not put the city’s water supply in jeopardy. As a precaution, however, the city will be working with the DNR to determine additional well sites, should that be needed in the future.
PFAS is a group of manmade substances found in fast food wrappers, non-stick cookware, stain resistant sprays and some firefighting foams. Recent scientific findings show long-term exposure to PFAS may have adverse health effects. The health concerns are still being studied, but many states are responding by setting acceptable levels for PFAS in drinking water.
A number of documents regarding the city water supply and PFAS can be found on the city’s website (www.rhinelandercityhall.org). In addition, a Facebook group entitled “Rhinelander Water Quality” has been started. The city is also considering a citizen water academy in 2020.