Photo by 12019 / 10260 images on Pixabay.
The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization says they’ve found PFAS contamination in sediment near Starkweather Creek in northeast Madison. The organization said they believe more testing is necessary.
PFAS is a class of human-made chemicals used in many household objects like non-stick cookware, food wrappers, and sprays. It’s also used in many firefighting foams.
The family of chemicals has been previously found in 14 of Madison’s 23 water wells. Last March, one Madison well near Truax was shut down due to PFAS contamination.
Last December, the City of Madison Fire Department announced it had switched to a PFAS-free firefighting foam.
But it’s still used at military bases like Truax Air Field. According to Maria Powell, the executive director of the Midwest Environmental Justice Organization, PFAS chemicals are toxic enough that people should be concerned.
“They can cause a range of health problems from high cholesterol, immune system and thyroid dysfunction, pregnancy complications, kidney and liver problems, and some types of cancer,” said Powell. “Some of these studies were done on humans and some were done on animals, but the science is getting more clear that these are very toxic compounds.”
Powell says her recommendation to the city is to stop construction in the affected area until more is known about PFAS contamination there.
But halting that construction might not be so easy. Much of the construction near Starkweather Creek is related to expanding the Truax Air Base in preparation for the new F-35 fighter jets. The city, the county, the U.S. air force, and the state all played a part in making the decision to place the fighter jets at the air base. And according to Yogesh Chawla, the Dane County supervisor whose district contains Starkweather Creek, they all have their claim to what happens on the land.
“The problem is there’s multiple jurisdictions involved here,” said Chawla. “There’s the city involved, there’s Dane County, we also have the air force, the state has some jurisdiction, so there’s a lot of different jurisdictions involved there. I don’t believe the county has the power to unilaterally halt any of that construction.”
Chawla says he also believes construction near Starkweather Creek should be put on hold until they better understand the situation.
This comes as a separate environmental advocacy group, Midwest Environmental Advocates, won a lawsuit seeking open records from Dane County officials and the Madison Water Utility regarding PFAS contamination.
PFAS is also called a forever chemical because it builds up in the environment when released, including in water and even fish.
Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Department of Natural Resources issued an advisory warning residents not to eat too many fish from Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek.
The agencies recommend eating just one bluegill a week caught in Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek, and just one carp, bass, pile, walleye, or perch per month.