Recent news articles have raised awareness, and concern, with PFAS levels prevalent in Wisconsin drinking water. In an effort to remain transparent and provide information about this substance, we have prepared a FAQ. If you have further questions, please call our customer service department at 920-683-4600.
1. What is PFAS?
Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. One common concern of PFAS is that many break down very slowly and can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time, therefore being commonly referred to as 'forever chemicals.'
2. How do PFAS get into the environment?
PFAS can be present in our water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes or workplaces. Here are some examples:
- Soil and water at, or near, waste sites such as landfills, disposal sites, and some hazardous waste sites.
- Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires. Such foams are used in training and emergency response events at airports, shipyards, military bases, firefighting training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.
- Manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS. For example, chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.
- Some foods such as fish caught from contaminated water or dairy products from livestock that have been exposed to PFAS.
- Food packaging such as grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, or candy wrappers.
- Household products such as stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery or clothing/other fabrics. Cleaning products, non-stick cookware, paints, varnishes, or sealants.
- Personal care products such as some shampoos, dental floss, and cosmetics.
- Public drinking water systems and private drinking water wells
3. Are PFAS harmful to my health?
Current scientific research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes. However, research is still being conducted to determine how different levels of exposure to different PFAS can affect our health, including low levels over long periods of time, especially in children.
4. Does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (WDNR) have drinking water regulations and/or standards for PFAS?
Currently, neither the EPA nor the WDNR have maximum contaminant limits on PFAS. However, the EPA has established health advisory levels at .004 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and .02 ppt for PFOS. Current lab testing can only detect 2 ppt. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulartory intended to provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials in regards to health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination.
5. I have seen reports that there is PFAS in Manitowoc. Is this true?
There are industrial groundwater monitoring sites within Manitowoc County that have confirmed PFAS contamination based on data found on the WDNR's Environmental Cleanup & Brownfields Redevelopment website (https://dnr.wi.gov/botw/GetPfasReport.do). These sites are not related to MPU and do not pose a risk to the City of Manitowoc's drinking water drawn from Lake Michigan.
6. Has MPU tested for PFAS in our drinking water?
Yes. MPU tested for PFAS in 2014, which resulted in no detectable PFAS. MPU will also be testing for PFAS under the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR5) in 2023-2024.
7. Where else can I learn about PFAS in drinking water?
The information referenced above was compiled from the websites below, as well as additional information.
EPA PFAS: https://www.epa.gov/pfas
Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) PFAS: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/chemical/pfas.htm