Feb 06, 2019

Wisconsin Fire Manufacturer Combats Growing Groundwater Contamination

The fire manufacturer delayed releasing information about the contamination for four years

Groundwater contamination under investigation surrounding firefighting foam site
Groundwater contamination under investigation surrounding firefighting foam site

Tyco Fire Products, a Marinette, Wis., manufacturer of firefighting foam, knew there was soil and well contamination on its property dating back to October 2013, but failed to share the information with homeowners surrounding the property until November 2017, according to state records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The site faces per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in groundwater stemming from its use of firefighting foam.

According to Tyco, the company knew about the contamination on their property, but did not make the information public until they found it to spread beyond its 380-acre fire technology center. After discovering the spread, the company began supplying bottled water to residents surrounding the site with well water contamination and was ordered by the state of Wisconsin to investigate the problem.

The 2013 test results were shared in a 2,273-page report to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) filed later in November 2016.

“In 2013, there was not the level of awareness and information as there is today associated with PFOS/PFOA,” said Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Johnson Control Intl., parent company of Tyco.

Since 2017, Tyco has suspended use of firefighting foam products outdoors at their facilities, but many residents are fearful that they may have been drinking contaminated groundwater for years. However, the DNR recently announced that it will conduct an expansive program this year to test for PFAS in water and fish tissue in the Marinette River and other rivers in the Mississippi and Wisconsin river basins near the site.

In response, Tyco is working to identify how far the pollution is spread and to help clean it up, as mandated by the DNR.

“They have an obligation to act, whether we direct them to or not,” said Darsi Foss, director of remediation and redevelopment for the DNR. “I think they are acting now and that is the best we can do–once we found out there was a problem.”