Mayor: Before Its Shutdown, Experts Gave ‘No Clear Direction’ On Well With Rising PFAS Levels

Nov 26, 2019

The city of Rhinelander is now drawing its water from just three wells.
Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR

Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson says he tried to get the state to provide clear direction on rising levels of a PFAS compound in a city well, but got nothing.

Instead, Frederickson himself ordered the well shut down last Friday.

Well 8 became the second Rhinelander city water well shut down due to PFAS concerns, joining Well 7.  Various types of compounds in the PFAS family have been linked to health risks.

A Nov. 7 sample showed the levels of PFHxS, a member of the PFAS family, had reached 95.7 parts per trillion (ppt) in Well 8. 

The well had been providing water with about 90 ppt of PFHxS to the city since early October.  That’s the same concentration that led the Oneida County Health Department to immediately label the Crescent Spring “Do Not Drink” in August.

“I made the decision on my own to shut that down after I spoke to the attorney,” Frederickson said after Monday’s Common Council meeting.

In a press release on Tuesday, Frederickson said he couldn’t get a straight answer from the state on what to do about Well 8.

“During the last month I’ve been pressing the authorities above my office to give direction on [PFHxS],” he said, saying the authorities gave him “no clear direction” on whether to shut it down.

There are no recommendations from the federal or state governments on PFHxS limits.  Frederickson said he relied on standards and proposals from other states to make his decision.  States like New Hampshire and Michigan have numbers on the books.

The state Department of Natural Resources, state Department of Health Services, and Oneida County Health Department joined Frederickson on a conference call on Monday.  The mayor said they largely supported his move.

But Rhinelander Common Council President George Kirby said Frederickson and City Administrator Daniel Guild waited too long to deactivate the well.

“The mayor sat too long on this and Mr. Guild sat too long on this, too.  They both are wrong on this one,” he said.

Well 7, which is near Well 8 at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport, has been off since June after tests 

Both Well 7 and Well 8 are located at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.
Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR

showed elevated levels of PFOA and PFOS, the two best-known PFAS compounds.

Frederickson said the DNR confirmed the city, which uses about 1.7 million gallons daily, shouldn’t have to worry about water supply, even with only three wells currently active.

Tuesday’s press release said the city will work with the DNR if it needs to pursue new well sites.