Dec 19, 2019

Wisconsin City Extinguishes Use of PFAS-Laden Foam

Madison, Wisconsin’s fire department is slated to use PFAS-free firefighting foam. 

firefighting foam

The Madison Fire Department has replaced its firefighting foam with foams that are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-free, according to Channel 3000.

The change was made after foam used to put out the explosion at substations for American Transmission Co. and Madison Gas and Electric tested positive for PFAS, according to Fire Chief Steven Davis. Since the discovery, Davis directed the department to avoid using the foam until it was replaced.

"The fire service is always there to help, and to find out that we're actually causing a problem in the environment and for our people potentially, I think it's imperative that fire chiefs across the country realize that and make an immediate change," said Davis. "I think on a personal level, I've got three young kids and I want them to have safe drinking water for years to come."

The department hired a licensed disposal company to pump the old foam out of every engine before decontaminating the trucks and filling them with the new PFAS-free foam, reported the Madison Fire Department’s press release.

Firefighters tested about a dozen PFAS-free brands and the city’s engineering department sent three to the University of Notre Dame to be tested for PFAS content. The department decided to go with two products from North Carolina manufacturer National Foam, reported the press release.

The first foam, dubbed Knockout, targets class A fires with ordinary combustible fuels. The other foam suppresses class B fires with flammable liquids. 

When tested by the University of Notre Dame, Knockout showed fluorine levels at about 1 part per million (ppm), compared to typical firefighting foam that contains around 5,000-7,000 ppm, reported the fire department’s press release. Class B foam contained 2 ppm fluorine. 

"We care about each other, we care about our constituents in the city of Madison, the groundwater, the drinking water. Our families are in the area, our families are growing up here," said firefighter Bob Luling to Channel 3000

Though the foam is PFAS-free according to the most recent testing standards, this could change.  

"Companies can change that proprietary formula and tests take a while to catch up to them," Davis said. "We can be back on foam and confident in that valuable lifesaving tool back in place and our crews can go ahead and use it again.”

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