Recent concerns about the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the region’s private wells have raised alarm among communities. PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals known for their water- and grease-resistant properties, have been linked to potential health risks.

PFAS contamination has gained attention due to its adverse effects on human health and the environment. These chemicals have been associated with a range of health concerns, including developmental issues, immune system disruption, and an increased risk of certain cancers. Since Northern Wisconsin’s population often relies on private wells for drinking water, addressing potential PFAS contamination is of paramount importance to safeguard public health and the environment.

In 2022, the DNR offered free testing of municipal water systems in Wisconsin.  Locally, the Wabeno Sanitary Board was first to get their water tested and found little or no trace of PFAS.  The other municipalities soon followed.  Laona Sanitary and the City of Crandon also reported little or no PFAS.

Most recently, the Forest County Forestry and Recreation Committee recommended PFAS testing for the wells located at Veterans Memorial Park on the South end of Lake Metonga.  The results came back this week and I’m happy to report PFAS chemicals weren’t present.

Understanding the sources of PFAS contamination is crucial for effective mitigation. In Northern Wisconsin, potential sources include industrial activities, firefighting foams, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants. Runoff from firefighting training sites and manufacturing facilities can infiltrate the groundwater, affecting private wells that draw from these sources. Additionally, the region’s reliance on septic systems may lead to PFAS entering the groundwater through household products containing these chemicals.

Private well owners in Northern Wisconsin play a pivotal role in protecting their families’ health. Regular testing for PFAS contamination is crucial to identify any potential risks associated with well water consumption. It is recommended that well owners test their water at least annually, especially in areas where PFAS contamination has been detected. Testing can provide valuable insights into the presence of these chemicals and help inform necessary actions.

A variety of testing methods can detect PFAS contamination in private well water. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry are commonly used techniques that provide accurate measurements of PFAS concentrations. Laboratories specializing in environmental testing can analyze well water samples for various PFAS compounds, allowing for a comprehensive assessment of contamination levels. It is important to choose a certified laboratory with experience in PFAS analysis to ensure reliable results.  We’re fortunate in Forest County that we have such a facility.  I’m referring to Northern Lake Service in Crandon.  They will provide PFAS testing for private wells in the surrounding area.

Raising awareness about PFAS contamination and the importance of private well testing is a shared responsibility among local governments, health organizations, and community members. Public education campaigns can inform residents about the potential risks, testing procedures, and available resources. Collaborative efforts between governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private citizens can help establish monitoring programs and advocate for stricter regulations to prevent PFAS contamination.

Protecting the health and well-being of Northern Wisconsin’s residents and preserving its natural beauty hinges on proactive measures to address PFAS contamination. Private well testing serves as a vital tool in identifying and mitigating potential risks associated with PFAS exposure. By recognizing potential sources of contamination, utilizing accurate testing methods, and fostering public awareness, communities can take decisive action to ensure safe and clean drinking water for current and future generations.  For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at .

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land & Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at .