Dec 16, 2020

High PFAS Levels Found in Groundwater Under Madison Airport

Testing of groundwater at two former firefighter training areas at the Madison airport found PFAS.

water testing

After testing of groundwater at two former firefighter training areas at the Madison airport in Madison, Wisconsin. 

According to the city, the samples were from shallow groundwater that is separate from the deep aquifers that municipal wells draw from.

The results revealed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at levels thousands of times higher than recommended health standards, reported the Wisconsin State Journal.

Dane County Regional Airport found combined levels of PFOA and PFOS at more than 68,000 ppt in water collected from a site near Darwin Road, according to a report submitted last week to the Department of Natural Resources. Samples taken from a site near Pearson Street found levels in excess of 20,000 ppt.

Wisconsin’s Department of Health proposed a safe drinking water standard of 20 ppt for PFOS and PFOA.

According to the city, questions still remain about how the samples at these sites compare to surrounding areas and how shallow groundwater moves around the site and toward Starkweather Creek.

Previous tests have found high levels of PFAS in Starkweather Creek as well as in fish from the creek and Lake Monona. As a result, health officials warned against eating some fish. In June 2018, the DNR notified Dane County, the city of Madison and the Wisconsin Air National Guard that they share responsibility for the contamination at the two sites. These sites were known as burn pits used for firefighter training between the 1950s and 1980s.

In 2019, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway told the DNR the city should not be responsible for the burn pits. As a response, the DNR responded that the city provided firefighting services for Truax Field and owned the Darwin Road site until 1974. At this time, the federal government required the use of PFAS foams at military bases, added the Wisconsin State Journal.

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