The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Department of Health Services, and the Department of Natural Resources sent letters regarding water testing to several homes in Starks with well water systems. Residents in Starks, Wisconsin and others around Oneida County have learned that their well water may be contaminated with dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
What are PFAS?
PFASs are man-made chemicals that are used to create many nonstick, stain resistant, and waterproof products. The carbon-fluorine bond in PFAS is one of the strongest bonds that occur in nature, which is a reason why these molecules are so persistent. PFAS are highly water soluble, which increases the rate at which they spread throughout the environment, contaminating soil, groundwater, and surface water. PFAS persist in the environment and do not breakdown like most organic compounds which is why they are frequently referred to as “forever chemicals.”
What are the dangers of PFAS?
PFAS are absorbed in animal and human tissues after oral exposure, inhalation, or dermal exposure and accumulate in the serum, kidney, and liver. They have been found in water, soil, and air, as well as in human food supplies, breast milk, umbilical cord blood, and human serum.
Exposure to PFAS can result in negative health effects. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, studies have found that exposure to certain PFAS compounds — PFOA and PFOS — over certain levels may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes).
PFAS detected in Starks and throughout Oneida County may also have similar health effects. Unfortunately, it has not yet been determined where the chemicals are coming from, but many residents living in Starks and Oneida County have lost access to clean water.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you live in Oneida County and your home has a well water system or if you received a letter from UWM about water testing, you should consider contacting an attorney. Seeking the guidance of an attorney is important in these types of cases.
An attorney can assist in the following areas:
- File a lawsuit to recover money for your lost property value, for adequate drinking water, and for the loss of use of your property.
- Keep you informed about the contamination and developments in PFAS science; and
- Decipher and explain the confusing test results.