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Are you curious to know more about our region, its people and its culture?Curious North invites you to take part in the stories we cover. It’s guided by you, our listeners, and your curiosity about our region – from Central Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.Here's how it works: You ask a question and then we investigate and share our findings. The questions can be big or small.

PFAS Found in Crescent Town Spring: Water Not Safe to Drink

Mackenzie Martin / WXPR
The OC Health Department has posted signs warning people not to drink the water from the Crescent Town Spring, ever since test results came back positive for PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals that can lead to adverse human health effects.

The Crescent Town Spring located at 3171 S River Road is no longer a recommended source of drinking water, according to a press release from the Oneida County Health Department Monday. Many locals have gotten their drinking water from the spring for decades.

Signs were posted deterring people from drinking the water out of caution a few weeks ago, while it was being tested for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of man-made chemicals that can lead to adverse human health effects in high doses. Now that the test results have come back as positive for high levels of PFAS, the recommendation not to drink the water at the Crescent Town Spring is permanent.

The testing of the spring was prompted in July, when Well 7 at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport was closed when tests came back positive for high levels of PFAS contamination.

Oneida County Health Officer Linda Conlon says that while Well 7 has been closed, it’s still being investigated.

“The DNR is investigating Well 7, the potential responsible party,” she says. “That is the investigation that continues. Hopefully when that’s complete, we’ll have a better idea of possible contamination and where that contamination is.”

For those who might be concerned about drinking their own private well water, Conlon says there is a test for PFAS levels that can be done by Northern Lake Service in Crandon, but it’s expensive.

The easiest solution is to find another source of drinking water such as bottled water or Rhinelander municipal water until the investigation is complete, which could take up to a year.

“We recommend that if you’re concerned about drinking your well water that you find an alternative source of water,” she says. “The municipal water is considered safe at this time. So if they know anybody who has municipal water, they can certainly fill up water from them.”

The Oneida County Health Department is also working with the Division of Public Health and the DNR to see if there are additional steps they can take to determine possible contamination in the area.

Wisconsin doesn’t have a standard level allowed in drinking water for these compounds, but the levels found in both of these cases were referenced with guidance values established in other states and deemed unsafe.

The Oneida County Health Department has more information on their website: http://oneidacountypublichealth.org/services/environmental-health/water-quality/

More information on PFAS in general can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas

We first discovered this story because someone sent this question to WXPR's Curious North series: I recently read an article (cbsnews.com) about many communities in the US, including Rhinelander, having contaminated drinking water with something called PFAS. What does this mean, exactly? Who is at risk?

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