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Madison Water Utility will not bring Well 15 on East Washington Ave. online for the foreseeable future. Earlier this summer, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommended a groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for two PFAS compounds called PFOA and PFOS. At Well 15, PFOA and PFOS measure at a combined 12 ppt, well below that recommended level.

However, out of an abundance of caution and because of uncertainties related to the presence of other PFAS compounds beyond PFOA and PFOS, Well 15 will remain out of service until DHS recommends groundwater standards for an additional 34 types of PFAS, which it is currently investigating. These recommendations are expected in the fall of 2020.

PFAS are a widely used class of chemical compounds found in firefighting foams, nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpet and upholstery. The compounds are extremely difficult to break down are now showing up in dust, air, groundwater, and lakes, rivers and streams. You can find more information about PFAS on the Public Health Madison Dane County website.

While Well 15 is an important water supply source on the east side, continued conservation in Madison has made it possible to meet demand and fire protection storage in the area with the well offline. If the city experiences a prolonged dry spell or a mechanical failure at one or more other wells on the east side, Madison Water Utility will call for voluntary or mandatory water restrictions in that part of the city. Well 15 will only be brought online if, even with water restrictions, MWU is unable to fill Madison’s reservoirs. Bringing any well, including Well 15, back into service takes a minimum of about one week from the time a decision is made until the water can flow into the distribution system.

Madison Water Utility is currently exploring treatment options for PFAS removal at Well 15. However, treatment at Well 15 is just one solution to ensure we meet long-term water supply needs on the east side. Adding an additional supply point may be more cost-effective than treatment. Rather than narrowly focusing on water quality at Well 15, the utility will evaluate other alternatives that may provide greater benefits at a lower cost to our consumers.

PFAS treatment at Well 15 is not included in the Water Utility’s 2020 Capital Budget request. However, $82,000 to perform an alternatives analysis study for the well is projected for 2021. Madison Water Utility does not currently intend to supply water from Well 15 without treatment for PFAS unless there is an extreme water supply emergency in the area. MWU took the well offline in March of 2019.


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