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Wisconsin to provide bottled water to La Crosse County town due to PFAS contamination
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Wisconsin to provide bottled water to La Crosse County town due to PFAS contamination

From the COLLECTION: PFAS -- 'forever' chemicals -- in the news in 2021 series

Multiple state agencies announced Thursday they will provide bottled water to all residents of the La Crosse County town of Campbell after issuing a temporary drinking water advisory for French Island in the wake of the PFAS contamination.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is partnering partner with the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Air National Guard and Wisconsin Emergency Management to provide the water, which comes on top of La Crosse's existing bottled water service for those residents with the most polluted water.

In addition, both the DNR and DHS issued an "interim, area-wide drinking water advisory for French Island residents due to concerns with PFAS being found in private drinking water wells on the island."

This news comes after the city discovered that more than 100 private wells on French Island had been contaminated with PFAS, a toxic "forever chemical," believed to have originated from firefighting foam used at the La Crosse Regional Airport.

It also comes just days after emails obtained by the Tribune, and first reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, showed that La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat refused to provide bottled water to residents whose contamination did not fall below the state's standards.

The city is currently providing $25,000 worth of bottled water to 54 residents.

In recent weeks, the city's response to the PFAS crisis has come under fire, many residents and local officials urging for more testing, water and a wider investigation scope as more concern mounts that the contamination is more widespread than originally thought.

Local companies are also joining the fight, several of them with plans to distribute clean water to residents Thursday night, including Hy-Vee, Kwik Trip and CVS.

The DNR said it will provide the option for five gallon containers of bottled water from Culligan — the same company the city is currently using for its bottled water service — to be delivered to homes.

Residents will need to register through the DNR, and can begin receiving water in the coming week.

In addition, the DNR announced that it is evaluating testing additional wells on French Island, after reports that private well owners outside of the initial testing area have found contamination.

Specifically, the DNR announced that an additional 92 private well samples have been taken voluntarily in the recent weeks, and results are expected in the next 30 days.

"The DNR and its contractor are evaluating the available information — including existing private sampling results and location of over 90 additional wells sampled to date — to develop a sampling plan for a subset of the island's private water supply wells. Based on sampling results, the state will determine whether to continue or modify," the water advisory.

Residents looking to register for the DNR-issued water can fill out a form on its website, that can either be emailed or mailed.

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