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Lawsuit blames Ahlstrom Munksjo and 3M for Stella PFAS contamination. DNR has yet to identify the source.

Roughly 50 people came out to the Stella Town Hall meeting Tuesday to hear the DNR and DHS presentation on PFAS levels in private wells in the area.
Katie Thoresen
Roughly 50 people came out to the Stella Town Hall meeting late last year to hear the DNR and DHS presentation on PFAS levels in private wells in the area.

Some people with PFAS-contaminated wells in Oneida County are suing Ahlstrom Munksjo, owners of the Rhinelander paper mill.

PFAS levels thousands of times higher than Wisconsin’s health recommendation level have been found in dozens of private wells in the Town of Stella.

Six residents in the Town of Stella filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

They claim their wells and their drinking water is contaminated because the Ahlstrom-Munksjo paper mill in Rhinelander spread millions of pounds of PFAS-contaminated sludge on farmland in the area.

They’re suing the mill and 3M for providing the PFAS chemicals to the mill.

Thelawsuit claims that Ahlstrom and previous owners of the mill knew or should have known about the risk and dangers of applying the PFAS-contaminated waste to farmland.

The residents that filed are suing the companies have combined PFOS and PFOA levels in their wells ranging from 1,800 to nearly 3,000 parts per trillion.

Wells with PFAS levels greater than 30,000 ppt have been found in the Stella area.

The State Department of Health Services' recommended level is no more than 20 ppt.

A couple of the plaintiffs say the exposure to the high PFAS levels has impacted their health and gave them high cholesterol.

They’re suing to get, among other things, compensation for restoring and remediating contamination from their properties and wells.

WXPR reached out to Ahlstrom Munksjo for comment on the lawsuit.

Head of Marketing Communications and Public Affairs Addie Teeters said in a statement, “It is Ahlstrom’s policy not to comment in detail on open litigation. While we are still reviewing the complaint, it appears to focus on activities that are alleged to have occurred prior to Ahlstrom’s acquisition of the Mill in 2018.”

In a news briefing Tuesday, the Wisconsin DNR said it has not confirmed a source of contamination.

It is waiting on test results from the paper mill sludge.

Adrian Stocks is the DNR’s Water Quality Program Director. He says they’ve also put in permit requirements in order to monitor their discharges for PFOS and PFOA.

“That includes the City of Rhinelander and also the re-issue permit for the paper mill in that area. As we move forward we anticipate a better understanding if/what concentrations be in the industrial sludge or municipal biosolids that may be land spread,” said Stocks.

Stocks expects the sludge testing results by the end of this week.

DNR officials are updating residents at a Stella Town Meeting Tuesday night at 5:00 p.m.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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