PFAS contaminated sites near La Crosse Airport. - WXOW

PFAS contaminated sites near La Crosse Airport.


The Federal Aviation Association Airports has required airports to use fluorinated firefighting foams for decades. Now, testing of PFAS-contaminated water sources highlights the problems this requirement poses to municipal and private water , reports a Fire Department Service Announcement from the Foam Exposure Committee.

In Wisconsin, PFAS contamination has become an increasingly prominent environmental issue in recent years, with the substances identified in multiple locations around the state, including the Marinette and Peshtigo areas.

The La Crosse Regional Airport is the most recently affected airport. The Town of Campbell, which is near the airport on French Island across the Mississippi from Lacrosse, has discovered PFAS in its drinking water. It is believed that contamination came from the airport.

Of 551 private drinking wells sampled so far, only 13 have shown no trace of the long-lasting chemicals. More than 130 have levels above the state’s recommended limits for drinking water. 

“Testing, training and emergency response use of that foam has resulted in soil and groundwater contamination,” said Darsi Foss, the DNR’s Environmental Management Division administrator at a press conference Thursday.

Mitigation efforts may include installing a municipal water system. In the late 1990s, when the town last investigated installing a new system, the estimate was between $15 million and $20 million. 

The City of La Crosse, Wisconsin, owns the La Crosse Regional Airport. The state Department of Natural Resources is testing private wells on the island and providing bottled water to more than 1,000 people with contaminated wells. 

The airport has now filed a lawsuit against the companies that make firefighting foams. The city is facing “immense pressure from the community it serves related to the use of firefighting foam under federal regulations,” the lawsuit alleged.

Airports throughout the U.S. are dealing with AFFF water contaminations issues. Numerous airports in the U.S. have requested exemptions. Their reason? The FAA has not issued an updated Cert 139 although the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act requires them to transition to fluorine-free foams by October 5, 2021.