The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released a report Tuesday detailing the findings of PFAS in the liver of deer harvested and analyzed from the JCI/Tyco Fire Technology Center in Marinette, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Wednesday delayed action on an emergency rule mostly ending the use of fire fighting foam with contaminants such as PFAS.

The legislature wants the DNR to have rules in place by September 1 to control what are called "forever chemicals" that don't break down in the environment. A component of the foam contains PFAS. The rule sets up regulations regarding the foam.

DNR administrator Darsi Foss says regardless of the emergency rule outcome, restrictions begin soon...

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Rhinelander has started examining options for treating PFAS-contaminated water being produced by two city wells.

Wells 7 and 8 have been shut down since last year after excessive levels of the chemicals were found in the water.

This week, Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson said he and others are looking at options for a treatment system for the water from the wells.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The City of Rhinelander will test for PFAS in the discharge liquid, or leachate, of its long-closed city landfill. The Common Council approved that action this week.

Also this week, the city’s PFAS consultant, Dr. Jim Tinjum, released a white paper with further information on the issue and its potential causes. Tinjum is an environmental engineer at UW-Madison.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

If just one more Rhinelander city well is taken offline, the city won’t be able to meet its water demand, according to a DNR drinking water supervisor.

Only three off Rhinelander’s five municipal wells are currently operating.

It’s been that way since last year, when the other two were shut off due to high levels of detected PFAS.

PFAS is a manmade chemical with links to health risks, including cancer.

DNR Public Drinking Water Field Supervisor Mark Pauli said losing another well would create a water supply problem for Rhinelander.


The City of Rhinelander's municipal Well 7, now shut off because of PFAS concerns, is located at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.Credit Ben Meyer/WXPREdit | Remove

A UW-Madison engineering professor recommends Rhinelander test its old municipal landfill for PFAS contamination.

Dr. Jim Tinjum, who was hired by the city as an environmental consultant, says the closed landfill could be the source of PFAS contamination in the city’s water.

Ben Meyer-WXPR

Since the discovery that the chemical contaminants known as PFAS was found in Rhinelander's water, the city has been testing for the chemicals on a monthly basis.

Action by the common council this week changed the costly tests to bimonthly.

At  the  meeting, Mayor Chris Frederickson said after shutting down two wells on the city's west side after levels topped federal standards, they've been testing the remaining wells monthly...

Ben Meyer/WXPR

In a month, Wisconsin will miss a deadline for action on the chemical contaminant PFAS.

That’s the substance found in drinking water in Rhinelander and other places. It’s linked to higher cholesterol, thyroid issues, and cancer.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

A WXPR investigation has found over a seven-year period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the City of Rhinelander spread almost 400 tons of sewage sludge at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport. 

Later, the city built two municipal water wells near the place where some of the sludge was spread. Last year, those wells were found to have high levels of PFAS, a chemical with known health risks.

Now, a nationally-recognized expert on PFAS and sludge says the contamination in the city’s water could have come from sludge spread three decades ago.

State of Michigan

A month ago, in a ballroom at a hotel conference center in a Madison suburb, social distancing wasn’t even in the vocabulary of most people.

The coronavirus wasn’t yet a threat to Wisconsin.  Hundreds of people packed into a convention to talk about, and hear about, a different threat to health--PFAS.

“It is the hot ticket issue right now,” conceded Bridget Kelly, the Wisconsin DNR’s Program Coordinator for Emerging Contaminants.

The topic is only growing hotter.

Godfrey and Kahn

As Wisconsin works toward setting up enforceable limits for PFAS in water, it’s already behind several other states.

But the federal government seems to be trailing even farther behind in protecting the public.

The man-made group of chemicals got more attention in Wisconsin once it was found contaminating water supplies like Rhinelander’s.

The contaminant, linked to health risks, is present across the country.

But the actions taken by different governments are a hodgepodge.

Ben Meyer WXPR

The City of Rhinelander is in the preliminary stages of applying for a grant to screen out PFAS water contamination from city water.

Mayor Chris Frederickson reported at the common council meeting Monday they're doing the preliminary work to eventually request a grant from the Rhinelander Community Foundation for a voucher reimbursement program..

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau/Susan Hedman

Wisconsin is the home of its own conservation hall of fame, the home of the founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson, and the home of John Muir.

It was the first state in America to ban DDT.

“Wisconsin has had such a long tradition in the conservation area and protecting the environment,” said Susan Hedman, the former Great Lakes Region Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hedman says Wisconsin used to a leader in the field.  But now, it’s a leader in something else.

Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport

A law firm representing Oneida county, the City of Rhinelander and the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport has written the DNR asking them to rescind or clarify a letter declaring the airport as a responsible party for PFAS pollution in Rhinelander water wells.

Two wells near the airport have been shut down after testing found "forever chemicals" above federal levels at the wells.

Two state Senators and four members of the Assembly have signed onto bills to set up what are called PFAS management zones to more quickly test for the 'forever' chemicals.

Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz is a sponsor. He acknowledges other legislators are moving bills about PFAS forward, but he says this effort is aimed to get action right away. He says if PFAS is discovered, using the federal standard, it would begin a testing protocol...