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PFAS Found In Rhinelander Well, Drinking Water Safe, Crescent Spring To Be Tested

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An updated report from Ken Krall can be found here.

The City of Rhinelander and the Oneida County Health Departments have released press releases saying a city water well has levels of polyfluoroalkyl(PFAS) and has been shut down. The affected well is near the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport. Health officials are also saying the nearby Crescent spring might be affected, and they've posted a "Use at your own risk" warning about water there.

We're posting the press releases below for now, and will update the story as more becomes available.



City Administrator Daniel Guild cityadministrator@rhinelandercityhall.org July 22, 2019


City officials released information today to Rhinelander Water Utility customers related to a recently published health advisory regarding PFAS chemicals recently detected within the City’s water supply. For the past few weeks, the City has been receiving phone calls regarding a rumor that Rhinelander drinking water is not safe.

This rumor likely originated from recent water utility testing which was performed to investigate for the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) within the local groundwater. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are the most widely produced and studied of these chemicals. They may be found in everyday consumer products, such as some grease-resistant paper, nonstick cookware, stain resistant fabrics, cleaning products, and other personal care products like shampoo and nail polish. PFAS chemical levels are not currently regulated by the state of Wisconsin, nor are they regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Rhinelander Water Utility has not, nor has it ever, been required to test for the presence of these chemicals. Recently, there has been some emerging science, which might indicate these chemicals are linked to certain undesirable health conditions. Though PFAS are not regulated substances, and the Water Utility is not required to test for them, a decision was made late this spring to voluntarily explore whether there was evidence of PFAS chemicals in City wells. After recent testing, the City discovered that PFAS levels within Well 7 were higher than what health agencies monitoring this issue are currently suggesting for maximum lifetime exposure. Because of this, the City has turned off Well 7, and removed it from regular service. It will remain offline for the foreseeable future. When drinking water provided by the City, customers receive their water through the distribution system, which is filled and pressurized from multiple well sources, mixing together throughout the City.

Whatever the condition of the water in Well 7 was prior to recent testing, it was mixed with the water from other wells within the distribution system.

Simultaneous testing of the other wells has not revealed any additional concerns and the water currently being supplied should not cause you any additional or immediate concerns. The enclosed public health advisory was drafted, with technical help and assistance provided from the Wisconsin DNR, out of an abundance of caution, and to fulfill our commitment to our customers to be as open and transparent as possible with these recent testing results. People searching for additional peace of mind may be interested in filtration. There has been recent testing of small, in-home granular activated carbon (GAC) filters for PFAS removal. Recent tests have revealed that this type of filter was effective at removing PFAS from drinking water.

However, it is important to note that any filter will lose its effectiveness over time, so it is important to install and maintain filters according to the manufacturer instructions. While not specifically rated and/or certified for PFAS removal, some types of activated carbon (charcoal) and reverse osmosis filters might also reduce PFAS levels in water. The City does not recommend investing in filters or bottled water at this time. Based on current, available information, we can conclude that the water is not considered a potential threat to health and is safe to drink. The City will continue testing for these chemicals, monitoring the quality of the water provided our customers, and communicating with customers the information collected. The City will be posting information about this issue on its website, and through social media platforms such as Facebook and Nextdoor. Public notices will be posted at City Hall, and the City will also consider additional mailings as necessary to provide you with information. Thank you for your attention to this correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact us here at City Hall if you would like any additional information regarding this issue.


Oneida County Health Department press release



July 23, 2019

PFAS Found in Rhinelander Municipal Well

A municipal well is offline after levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found above the EPA’s health advisory (70 ng/L) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ (DHS) recommended groundwater standard level (20 ng/L).

DNR is investigating potential sources of the contamination and is working to determine the extent of the contamination. The well with high levels is by the airport and is currently turned off, meaning the public water system is ok to drink. “There is not currently enough information to determine where the contamination comes from or extends to,” says Oneida County Health Officer Linda Conlon. “If people are concerned about their private well, we recommend they find an alternative source of water, such as bottled water or water from a known safe source.”

Local and state officials are working on a plan to investigate the contamination. At this time the local health department does not recommend people get their water from the Crescent Spring located at 3171 S River Road. We do not have any information at this time to determine whether the Spring water contains PFAS.

The DNR is in the process of testing the Crescent Spring. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil. Potential Health Risks of PFAS Any specific health-related questions regarding the effects of PFAS on your health should be directed to your doctor while any general questions regarding the effects of PFAS should be directed to DHS.

Scientists are still learning about the health effects that various PFAS can have on the body and the effects of mixtures of PFAS. The more widely used substances, like perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic  acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), have been studied more than other PFAS.

Some, but not all, studies in humans with PFAS exposure have shown that certain PFAS may:

  • Increase cholesterol levels.
  • Decrease how well the body responds to vaccines.
  • Increase the risk of thyroid disease.
  • Decrease fertility in women.
  • Increase the risk of serious conditions like high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.
  • Lower infant birth weights; however, the decrease in birth weight is small and may not affect the infant’s health.

More information can be found on the Oneida Public Health Department website:



More information about PFAS and health risk can be found on the Wisconsin DHS website at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/chemical/pfas.htm



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