High PFAS levels lead Oneida County to slap 'do not drink' recommendation on public springSubmitted: 08/20/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

High PFAS levels lead Oneida County to slap 'do not drink' recommendation on public spring
RHINELANDER - The Oneida County Health Department told people to stay away from a popular freshwater spring this week after tests showed high levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water.

The Crescent Spring on South River Road joins the nearby Rhinelander municipal Well 7 with high PFAS levels.

The Health Department and DNR don't know where the contamination is coming from.

"Especially when we're talking about the Crescent Spring and the sheer number of people that get their water from the Crescent Spring, we definitely wanted to be proactive [in keeping people away from it]," said Todd Troskey, an environmental health specialist with the Health Department.

Test results on that water came back last week. They showed high levels of PFHxS, a compound in the PFAS family of chemicals.

Those man-made chemicals, when inside humans, may be linked to higher cholesterol levels, a higher risk of thyroid disease, and lower female fertility.

The PFHxS levels at Crescent Spring were above 90 parts per trillion. Wisconsin doesn't have proposed limits for PFHxS, but other states do, and the concentration led the Health Department to tell people not to drink the spring water.

"Even though the state isn't currently looking at those to regulate, we knew that there was a good potential that they would be looked at in the future, and probably in the near future," Troskey said.

The Crescent Spring is near Rhinelander's Well 7, which was shut down in June after testing showed high levels of a different type of PFAS.

But no one knows the source of the PFAS. Troskey isn't even sure the two are related.

"Just because there is PFAS contamination in the Crescent Spring doesn't mean it's necessarily the same PFAS issue that was in Well No. 7," he said.

The Health Department will work with the DNR to identify a source, which could take up to a year.

Until then, Troskey says people in the area could get their private well water tested, but he admits that's expensive.

Instead, he recommends a simpler approach.

"Rely on the general condition, how they feel, asking their doctor if there's any concerns," he said.

Rhinelander's Well 7 remains shut down. The city and health department say municipal water is safe to drink.

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