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Madison Water Utility will not operate Well 15 on East Washington Ave. for the foreseeable future. Water at Well 15 has not exceeded any state or federal health-based drinking water standard.
However, out of an abundance of caution, Well 15 will remain out of service until DHS recommends groundwater standards for 34 types of PFAS, which it is currently investigating. These recommendations are expected in the fall of 2020.
Madison Water Utility has been conducting advanced testing of the city’s 23 water wells looking for dozens of different PFAS compounds. Fourteen wells show trace or low levels of at least one type of PFAS.
- View map of PFAS testing results
- Find out which wells serve your home
- View detailed summary of PFAS testing results
- View the Public Health Madison Dane County information page on PFAS
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended a groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for two types of PFAS called PFOA and PFOS. Levels at all Madison wells fall below this recommended standard.
Low Level Detection
Well 15 E. Washington Ave.
Well 9 Spaanem Ave.
Well 23 Leo Dr. (seasonal)
Well 6 University Ave.
Well 7 N. Sherman Ave.
Well 13 Wheeler Rd.
Well 14 University Ave.
Well 11 Dempsy Rd.
Well 16 Mineral Point Rd.
Well 26 High Point Rd.
Well 29 N. Thompson Dr.
Well 8 Lakeland Ave. (seasonal)
Well 17 S. Hancock (seasonal)
Well 27 N. Randall Ave. (seasonal)
Well 12 S. Whitney Way
Well 18 Park St.
Well 19 Lake Mendota Dr.
Well 20 Prairie Rd.
Well 24 N. Livingston St.
Well 25 Queensbridge Rd.
Well 28 Old Sauk Rd.
Well 30 Moorland Rd.
Well 31 Tradewinds Pkwy.
The source of PFAS at Well 15 is likely Truax Airfield, which sits less than a mile away from the well. PFAS-containing firefighting foams have been used on the base, and the chemicals have been found in shallow groundwater on base property. Sources of PFAS at other wells across the city are currently unknown.
What are Perflourinated Compounds?
Perflourinated compounds are part of a widespread class of chemicals known as PFAS (or Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyls), used in non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, stain-resistant upholstery and carpeting, and firefighting foams.
These compounds do not change or break down easily, and as a result, they are found throughout our environment and can accumulate in the human body. In recent years, experts have become increasingly concerned by the potential effects of high concentrations of PFAS on human health.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended groundwater standard two types of PFAS chemicals (PFOA & PFOS) at a combined concentration of 20 parts-per-trillion (ppt). The highest concentration of PFOA & PFOS detected at any Madison well is 12 ppt at Well 15 on East Washington Avenue.
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 low level detections at Well 15 on East Washington Ave. (located near Truax National Air Base). PFAS have been detected in shallow groundwater at Truax National Air Base, according to the DNR. The base sits just one mile from Well 15.
In 2019, Madison Water Utility is again testing all wells for PFAS compounds. This time, it is working with labs that are able to detect as many as 30 different types of PFAS compounds at very low levels.
Public Health Madison Dane County does not recommend that people invest in filters or bottled water at this time. The water is not considered a potential threat to health. However, studies show that activated carbon (like those found in pitcher filters) and ion exchange are two promising technologies for removing PFAS from drinking water. Find out more on the PFAS FAQ Page.
Well Service Area Maps
- Well 15 Service Area Map
- Well 6 Service Area Map
- Well 7 Service Area Map
- Well 9 Service Area Map
- Well 11 Service Area Map
- Well 13 Service Area Map
- Well 14 Service Area Map
- Well 16 Service Area Map
- Well 26 Service Area Map
- Well 29 Service Area Map
- Well 15 Feb 2019 Expanded Testing Results
- Well 15 2017-2019 PFAS Testing Results
- Well 16 2017-2018 PFAS Testing Results
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.
Past Meetings and Announcements
Public meeting with with the Eken Park Neighborhood Association, Emerson East Neighborhood Association, Friends of Starkweather Creek
PFAS was discussed at the Water Utility Board Meeting, and included public comment and questions.
Click here for a summary of what was recommended at the meeting.
View the meeting presentation on PFAS testing from MWU water quality manager Joe Grande.
MWU has taken the first sample of 2019 at Well 15. We expect results by the end of February