Well 15 has been shut down since 2019, after voluntary testing found levels of PFAS chemicals of around 20 parts per trillion, right at the safety standard set by the state health department. Well 15 sits near Truax Airfield, where a process to clean up PFAS chemicals is ongoing.
According to a 2021 report from the Madison Water Utility, PFAS chemicals have also been detected, at much lower levels, in 14 other wells across Madison.
Now, Madison’s mayor and an area alder have a plan to treat toxic chemicals at Well 15, on Madison’s east side.
“We’re introducing a resolution to contract with a firm that will help us design a treatment system to remove PFAS from Well 15,” Rhodes-Conways says.
The resolution, which will be introduced at tomorrow night’s council meeting, would help the Madison Water Utility get a design to treat the water. The goal is to get the plan in place in time to apply for federal infrastructure funds later this year.
The new resolution would create an amendment to the city’s Water Utility Capital Budget to hire an engineering firm to perform testing on the well, as well as to create a final design for the well’s treatment facility.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway says that the resolution is intended to fix the problem, one way or another.
“We don’t know what the solution is, that’s important to note here. The resolution is focused on hiring a firm to find the right solution. It might be filtration, it might be something different, we don’t know. So, the point is to investigate our options and to design a solution,” Rhodes-Conway says.
The treatment facility would be designed by AECOM, an environmental engineering consultant. In 2009, the company worked with the city of Madison to build the city’s first iron and manganese treatment plant
Under the resolution, the city would pay $375,000 to AECOM to design and plan construction for the treatment plant. Additionally, the city would spend an added $50,000 to pay for city staff time with the project.
This funding would begin to pave the way for the city to apply for federal funds under the federal infrastructure bill passed last fall. That funding could fully fund the construction of the treatment plant.
The city has to move quickly, however. The deadline for applications to get the federal funds is in just six months. And with so many municipalities working for the same funding, it’s not guaranteed Madison will get the money. But by approving this resolution, the city Water Utility says Madison has a better chance of getting the money. The state Department of Natural Resources, who will have control of the funds, are expected to make their decision on which projects will receive funding in April of next year.
The city had been waiting for the state Department of Natural Resources to set acceptable limits for PFAS in drinking water. After the state agency did not set that limit last month and reset the process, Mayor Rhodes-Conway says there isn’t time to wait around on Well 15.
“We’re just moving forward because we know we have to be ready to apply for the federal funds. I think that it’s going to take a good long time for them to settle on something, and we just need to be able to move forward here. So we’re going to do the best that we can to set up a system and hopefully be in a position to remediate to whatever level either the state or federal level comes up with. We really do need to just move forward so we can be treating that well, be able to open it back up and provide clean drinking water to our community,” Rhodes-Conway says.
The resolution will be proposed at tomorrow night’s Common Council meeting, where it will then be sent to the city Finance Committee and the Water Utility Board. If all goes according to plan, it will then go before the full council for a final vote on May 10th. If it passes there, the project is scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2024. According to the city, it would likely be the first municipal PFAS treatment facility in the state.
Photo courtesy: Chali Pittman / WORT Flickr