MADISON, Wis. – Sampling results sent to the Department of Natural Resources from the Dane County Regional Airport show several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were detected on the airport property.
In a letter to Dane County Regional Airport on Oct. 11, the DNR informed airport officials that the sampling data indicates they are responsible for the discharge of a hazardous substance. As a result, DNR is asking airport officials to investigate the extent of contamination and provide a cleanup plan.
The DNR requested the airport to sample the outfalls as part of the process to complete the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit reissuance applications. PFAS sampling was required since large airports are known to be potential sources of relatively high concentrations of PFAS (now shown to be true at Dane County Regional Airport) in cases where training and use of firefighting foam occur on the property.
PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These legacy contaminants have made their way into the environment through spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants and certain types of firefighting foams.
PFAS can persist in the environment and the human body for long periods of time. Recent scientific findings indicate that exposure to certain PFAS may have harmful health effects in people. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to some PFAS substances above certain levels may increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as thyroid disease, low birthweights and cancer.
Since EPA does not have a federal drinking water standard for these contaminants, like other states, Wisconsin is working to address this critical issue. The rulemaking process started with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommending a combined groundwater enforcement standard of 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L) or parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS. The recommended standards will be enforceable once the rules are finalized.
Wisconsin is currently developing groundwater, surface water and public drinking water standards for PFAS based on the DHS recommendations for groundwater standards given to the DNR in June.