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La Crosse County may offer education to French Island families wanting to drill new water wells, due to PFAS pollution



Many French Island residents, who can’t use private water wells tainted with PFAS “forever chemicals” may want to drill wells to a new source of water that’s deeper underground.

The La Crosse County Board could vote Thursday night on a program to educate well owners about the risk of going deeper.

County supervisor Margaret Larson represents the island on the board. She worries that without proper precautions, well-drillers could tap into the aquifer that has PFAS, and accidentally pollute the clean water that’s below.

FILE – La Crosse County Board member Margaret Larson (left), Wisconsin state Sen. Brad Pfaff, and Campbell board member Lee Donahue spoke with reporters on Dec. 19, 2023 about finding clean water for Town of Campbell families. (photo: Brad Williams)

“You can’t drill a well into the lower aquifer while protecting the upper aquifer from contaminating the lower one, without doing special grouting and casing and well-drilling speed,” Larson told WIZM News.

A proposed resolution would require the county health department to provide education about how to properly drill new wells.

Just this week, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for the release of $125 million from the state budget to pay for PFAS relief to Wisconsin communities, including the Town of Campbell on French Island.

About 1,600 wells around the island are said to be tainted by PFAS substances used for years in firefighting foam at the La Crosse Airport.

“It would be too expensive and it would not be healthy” to drill straight down to the deeper aquifer without precautions, Larson said. “The water would not be ready for them to drink and cook with.”

The deeper water source is called the Mount Simon aquifer, located as much as 500 feet underground.

Island families with polluted wells have been supplied with bottled water by local government for nearly three years.

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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