Guild Updates Public On Rhinelander PFA's Testing

Aug 27, 2019

Water testing at the nearby Crescent spring
Credit Mackenzie Martin WXPR

Following the discovery of chemicals commonly called PFA's in Rhinelander water and the shutdown of well #7, new tests have shown less of the chemical at that well.

City Administrator Daniel Guild updated the common council Monday. The city had the water system tested this summer and Guild had the results.

 "I'm also please to report that the latest testing of water in well #7 is well below the 70 parts per trillion recommendation from the U.S. EPA and also substantially below the 20 parts per trillion recommendation by the State of Wisconsin."

Guild says he isn't recommending turning well #7 back on as too much is unknown about the results. He says the high test from the May sample, which topped the higher federal standards, could have been in error and the current low level could be because the aquifer has not been agitated recently with the well shut down.

The chemicals are used in things like nail polish, clothing and fire fighting foam, and as Guild reported, even at the lower DNR figure of 20 parts per trillion, it doesn't take much to pollute...

"To help you put that into context, that's 20 square inches out of every 250 square miles. That's(equivalent) to 20 seconds in 32,000 years. That is one ounce in 7.5 billion gallons of water..."

He says the city first participated in voluntary testing for PFAS in 2013. He says in 2015 the state Department of Military Affairs questioned Rhinelander's water quality at the local National Guard armory..

"Do to the concerns of what they have been discovering about issues on military sites or other places where there was regular use of flame-retardant chemicals and things like that..."

Guild says he's taken the emails and information about the testing and put it up on the city website. After talking with experts, Guild says human trials on the chemicals have not been completed.

He says the problem is the chemicals are so pervasive in our lives it's difficult to find a control group. He says the city is also looking at upgrading city well heads.

The council approved a motion to have Guild look into hiring a hydrologist to look at the groundwater supply.

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