Wausau will fund bottled water and home filtering devices

Damakant Jayshi

The Wausau City Council on Tuesday approved funding of up to $150,000 to provide PFAS bottled water and in-home filtering devices, one of many proposed solutions to allay water safety fears. city ​​drinking.

The council allocated the sum from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund. Staff will decide on the mix of products – between bottled water and individual filtration solution to meet the “temporary needs” of residents.

In June 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services made standard groundwater guidelines to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which included a 20 parts per trillion standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Recent testing of all municipal drinking water supply wells for PFAS showed the chemicals at levels ranging from 23 to 48 parts per trillion (ppt). All Wausau wells were above the future recommended level.

Some council members billed this as part of council’s “quick” and “interim” response to allay residents’ concerns about the impact of PFAS contamination in Wausau’s water. City levels are above the DHS-recommended standard of 20 ppt, but still below the controversial standard set by the Natural Resources Council of 70 ppt. DNR and DHS officials expect the Environmental Protection Agency to release a federal standard of 20 ppt this fall.

The city council amended an amount previously approved by its finance committee – $13,200 – to provide bottled water through The Neighbors’ Place to the city’s most vulnerable residents. The amendment not only increased the amount after Dist. 8 Alderman Sarah Watson suggested an increase but also added water filtering devices which are “a combination of solutions”, according to Dist. 7 Alderman and Finance Committee Chair Lisa Rasmussen.

Mayor Katie Rosenberg, who pressed for action after PFAS levels were made public a month ago, gave it a nod. “I think it’s a start,” she said. “I feel a certain urgency here. We have to start pushing something.

During the discussions, a number of members of the city council and the Wausau Water Works Commission urged action to address concerns and make safe drinking water available to residents. “My constituents said, ‘Do something now! Said Dist. 6 Alder Becky McElhaney, also Council Chair.

Last week, city officials quietly issued a formal drinking water advisory asking residents to limit their consumption of Wausau drinking water to reduce exposure to PFAS. The board is now onlinealthough no official press release or statement accompanies the publication.

Discussions began at the Bottled Water Finance Committee and continued at a joint meeting of the committee and the Wausau Water Works Commission. Later, the 11-member city council unanimously approved the temporary measure.

City Council also approved $240,375 in ARPA funds for PFAS treatment.
survey and pilot study to evaluate options for removing PFAS from the water supply before the city’s new $120 million water treatment facility becomes operational. The city hired Donohue & Associates, Inc. to conduct the study.

Despite intense discussions surrounding PFAS over the past several years, the new treatment facility was not designed to remove PFAS from treated water, state officials warned. The objective of the pilot study is to determine how chemicals can be removed from the water supply.

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