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September 18, 2019

Jamie Taylor/river news

This sign has been placed next to the Crescent Town Spring advising the public not to drink the water. Town of Crescent officials are waiting to hear if the well will have to be capped.
Jamie Taylor/river news

This sign has been placed next to the Crescent Town Spring advising the public not to drink the water. Town of Crescent officials are waiting to hear if the well will have to be capped.
8/19/2019 4:16:00 PM
PFAS found in Crescent Town Spring
Public advised not to drink from popular local water source
Jamie Taylor and Heather Schaefer
Of the River News

The Town of Crescent and the Oneida County Health Department have announced the results of recent tests on the Crescent Town Spring located at 3171 S. River Road.

"The test results indicate significantly elevated levels of PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid)," the town and health department announced in a joint press release.

"At this time the Town of Crescent and the Oneida County Health Department recommend NOT drinking the spring water," the release states. "We will continue to work with the Oneida County Health Department to determine how to proceed and as we receive further information it will be passed on. The test results can be viewed at"

PFHxS is a PFAS chemical. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water and oil.

According to the health department, boiling the spring water will not reduce potential PFAS concentrations.

Other detected PFAS include PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and PFHxA, the release states.

"Although PFAS is not currently, regulated, (the health department) is taking a proactive approach to assure the community is making informed decisions about drinking water," the release states.

"At this time, (the health department) recommends that if you are concerned about your private well, you should find an alternative source of water. At this time, municipal water is safe to drink and is considered a known safe source from PFAS. Women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and children should use caution in selecting their drinking water."

The timeline for determining the source of the potential PFAS is still unknown and the investigation by the DNR to determine the source may take several months to a year, according to the health department.

"There is not currently enough information to determine where the contamination comes from or extends to," Conlon said. "If people are concerned about their private well, we recommend they find an alternative source of water, such as bottled water or water from a known safe source."

The announcement of the results of the spring testing comes less than a month after the City of Rhinelander announced municipal well No. 7, located near the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport, had been taken offline due to PFAS contamination.

The city's announcement was made July 23. According to the press release, the results of the spring testing were received late in the day Aug. 14.

In a phone interview Monday, the River News asked Crescent town clerk Tracy Hartman about next steps.

"At this point in time, we don't have a next step," she said. "The health department called us late last week letting us know that the test results were positive for PFAS. So we issued the press release to let the people know don't drink it, here's what it is and here's the results. We posted them (results) on the Town of Crescent website in case people wanted to see it."

Hartman said the health department is contacting the state to see if there is anything the town can do to filter the PFAS out of the spring or if it will have to be capped.

Linda Conlon, director of the Oneida County Health Department offered additional information as to the difficulty involved in resolving this type of contamination.

"The difficulty with the spring, obviously, is how do you mitigate it?" she said. "So I'm working with the state to determine possible solutions, and then we will offer those solutions - if we find any - to the township. So at this point, we just have the sign out there that says we recommend not to drink the spring water."

Conlon also noted that the state would be the one to recommend the testing of private wells.

"That is definitely something that we are interested in exploring," she said. "We're looking at the methodology in the testing of private wells to come up with a plan in how to do that."

The test itself is $350, but Northern States Service, inc., in Crandon does offer a bulk discount for group tests, she noted.

The lack of a clear standard set forth by either the federal or state authorities as to what is an unhealthy level of PFAS in drinking water has not deterred the health department from taking action, Conlon noted.

"Although there is no standard, we really felt that it was important to post it (the results of the spring testing) because as research comes along, we really feel that there will be (standards)," Conlon said. "And we feel that the level in Crescent Spring will be higher than that."

When asked if the health department had received any recent test results for the city of Rhinelander municipal water, Conlon said she has not seen any results since well No. 7 was taken offline.

"That's the last test results that I received," she said. "That was way back, the original results. It looked like with all the rest of the wells, it was safe to drink."

In a follow-up press release issued late Monday afternoon, the health department offered additional information and advice.

Any specific health-related questions regarding the health effects of PFAS should be directed to your doctor while any general questions regarding the effects of PFAS should be directed to DHS, the release states.

"Scientists are still learning about the health effects that various PFAS can have on the body and the effects of mixtures of PFAS. The more widely used substances, like perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), have been studied more than other PFAS," the release states.

"Some, but not all, studies in humans with PFAS exposure, including PFHxS, have shown that certain PFAS may:

• Increase cholesterol levels.

•Decrease how well the body responds to vaccines.

•Increase the risk of thyroid disease and osteoarthritis.

•Decrease fertility in women.

• Increase the risk of serious conditions like high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

 • Lower infant birth weights; however, the decrease in birth weight is small and may not affect the infant's health."

More information on PFAS can be found on the Oneida Public Health Department website at

The second release also includes information about the consumption of fish.

"Wisconsin currently has a statewide fish consumption advisory for most of inland (non-Great Lakes) waters. This statewide advisory is primarily due to mercury. In addition to the statewide advisory, several site specific advisories exist, particularly for the Great Lakes and other large river systems, and these advisories are due to PCB and/or mercury contamination. PFAS compounds are routinely detected in fish sampled from Wisconsin waters. However, except for the Mississippi River where some PFOS specific advisories are in place, the levels observed in most state waters are lower than the consumption advisory levels established for PCBs or mercury. Therefore, except where PFOS specific advisories exist (Mississippi River), the existing advisories based on PCBs or mercury are as or more protective than levels established for PFOS."

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Article comment by: Dan Butkus

Seriously? If I'm concerned about my well, I should go buy some bottled water? The county hasn't given us enough info to know whether we should be concerned. Without a statistical sampling of wells extending out and around the two known sites, how are we to know IF we should be concerned? How far does the contamination extend? Is a mile away enough not to be concerned? Two? Ten? That had to have been one of the most useless pieces of advice to come from the County in some time. I'll be footing the $350 for testing myself and sharing the data with the State.

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