PFAS Frequently Asked Questions
We've received a number of questions about Well 15. Take a look at our FAQ page for the answers.
Well Service Area Maps & Testing Results
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- Well 15 Service Area Map
- Well 16 Service Area Map
- Well 15 2019 Expanded Testing
- Well 15 previous testing, previous years
- Well 16 PFAS Testing Results
Questions about your water? Call MWU's Water Quality department at (608) 266-4654.
According to Public Health Madison Dane County, current levels of PFAS detected in Well 15 are not a threat to health. PHMDC information page on PFAS
Upcoming Public Meetings:
- 3/16/2019 PFAS discussion with Public Health Madison Dane County, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and Madison Water Utility: Saturday, March 16, 9:00 a.m., East Madison Community Center, 8 Straubel Court. Spanish and Hmong interpreters will be at the meeting.
- 3/21/2019 Carpenter-Ridgeway Neighborhood Association meeting
3/6/2019 Great PFAS discussion with the Eken Park Neighborhood Association, Emerson East Neighborhood Association & Friends of Starkweather Creek. See presentations from the meeting below.
3/4/2019 Madison Water Utility will temporarily rely on other well facilities to serve the Well 15 area on the city’s east side as it waits for a recommended PFAS standard from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Find out more here.
Perflourinated compounds are part of a widely-used class of chemicals known as PFAS, or Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyls. These chemicals are used in food packaging, stain resistant clothing, firefighting foams and nonstick cookware. In 2017, trace levels of PFAS were found at two wells – Well 16 on Mineral Point Rd. and Well 15 off East Washington Avenue. The EPA has established a Lifetime Health Advisory Level for two types of PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) of 70 parts per trillion. The combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS at Well 15 is 11 parts per trillion. No PFOA or PFOS was detected at Well 16. PFAS chemicals are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
What's Happening in Madison
In 2015, Madison Water Utility tested all municipal wells for PFAS as directed by the EPA under its Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule using testing guidelines specified by the agency. No PFAS were detected in any Madison well.
In 2017, MWU launched another round of testing using methods that were more sensitive after new studies showed there may be health effects at lower levels than the reporting limits established by the EPA. The utility targeted five wells located near the airport or old landfills, areas where PFAS are most likely to be found in groundwater. Results showed trace detections at Well 16 on Mineral Point Rd. (located near a former landfill) and Well 15 on East Washington Ave. (located near Truax National Air Base).
While very low concentrations of just one type of PFAS have been found in Well 16, several types of PFAS have been found in Well 15, prompting greater concern and more extensive testing. PFAS contamination has been detected in groundwater at Truax National Air Base, according to the DNR. The base sits just one mile from Well 15. No wells tested in Madison showed results above the EPA Health Advisory Level.
Once in the environment, PFAS compounds are slow to degrade. Conventional drinking water treatment, including air stripping used to remove volatile organic compounds, is mostly ineffective at removing or destroying these widespread and persistent chemicals. However, studies show that activated carbon and ion exchange are two promising technologies for removing PFAS from drinking water.
Past News and Other Information
A groundwater study was initiated by Madison Water Utility to evaluate the time of travel for PFAS contamination from the Truax Air Field to Well 15 and update the Well 15 capture zones to determine if Truax could be the source of PFAS at Well 15.The study confirmed that Truax is inside Well 15’s groundwater capture zone. It also showed that the time of travel for groundwater from Truax to Well 15 is about 35 to 50 years. Based on the study, Madison Water Utility concluded that Truax Air Field is the likely source of low levels of PFAS detected at Well 15.
The City of Madison has included funding in its 2019 budget to supplement a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study of fish in the area, specifically at the mouth of Starkweather Creek into Lake Monona. There are currently fish consumption advisories, unrelated to PFAS contamination, in effect for fish caught in the area, but if there is further contamination, those advisories could be upgraded and highlighted.
In 2019, Madison Water Utility expanded its testing at Well 15 to include 30 types of PFAS chemicals. Initially, two national labs are being used to analyze the samples.