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Finding a solution
Photo by WJFW Newswatch 12

UW researchers investigate Rhinelander's PFAS issues


Story By Georgina Fernandez
Local News Published 07/21/2021 5:30PM, Last Updated 07/26/2021 9:53AM
Rhinelander - Back in 2019 both wells 7 and 8 in the City of Rhinelander were shut down after traces of PFAS chemicals were found. Those are man-made substances that experts say can be linked to health problems, including cancer.

Now researchers from UW-Madison's Geological Engineering department are investigating where exactly PFAS might be going in regard to well 7 and 8.
 
"What we are doing today is the initial investigation about the geological and hydrogeological conditions in this area," said James Tinjum, the director of Geological Engineering at the UW-Madison.

Researchers are digging below the surface to test groundwater and soil conditions, and they're using Ground Penetrating Radar, Electrical Resistivity, and Seismic geophysical techniques to map the ground beneath the the wells to find a way to treat the problem.
 
"So, when we withdraw water, assuming that these wells come back alone we can filter out PFAS out of that well to acceptable levels," Tinjum said.

Mayor Chris Frederickson says the problem affects everyone. "This issue is affecting many, many places," Frederickson said. "It will affect many more, so being a proactive approach and not hiding behind the fact we might have a problem, saying we have a problem and we are going to fix it."

And while the project is just in phase one, the team's ultimate goal is to build a game plan to prevent another well from being shut down.
 
"A conceptual site module," Tinjum said. "Again groundwater flow direction, depth to groundwater. Things like that. Really this is phase one to understanding the problem here."
 
The team will be in Rhinelander until Friday. They say they hope that with grant funding they will be able to return for additional research sessions in the future. 
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