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Board members Donahue, Larson join state Sen. Pfaff to discuss how release of state PFAS money can help solve French Island well water problem



Wisconsin’s governor wants $125 million in the state budget to be set aside for communities where drinking water has been tainted by PFAS chemicals.

Republicans included the funding in the state budget but did not designate it for anything specific in relation to the “forever chemicals.”

French Island would likely be high on the list of places where the funding could go with PFAS “forever chemicals” found in hundreds of wells there.

At a news conference Tuesday inside the Campbell Town Hall, Campbell board member Lee Donahue said such money could help her town build its own water works over a period of years.

“It will be phased, so obviously you can’t rip up every road every day,” Donahue said. “You still have to be able to get from here to there, but it would be phased in different parts of the island.”

Donahue added that 1,600 wells are located within a 4-square mile area of French Island.

Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) said at the news conference he hopes the legislature will move quickly to authorize the money.

Pfaff hopes the state “will provide direct assistance for municipalities, as well as for private well owners.”

Also in attendance was La Crosse County supervisor Margaret Larson. She said the county has been investing money in helping find new water sources for island residents.

Under the Evers plan, $60 million would be used for grants to local governments. Another $32 million could be made available to well owners. Evers also wants bills to establish new standards for PFAS chemicals in the water, and to better regulate those substances.

PFAS were first discovered in well water there in 2019, and Campbell families have been supplied with bottled water since early 2021 to avoid using the wells.

The chemicals have been traced to the use of firefighting foam at the La Crosse Regional Airport on the island.

FILE – US Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) meets with Town of Campbell community leaders on May 13, 2022, to discuss PFAS contamination in the wells there. (PHOTO: Brad Williams).

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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