PFAS

Milwaukee Water Works has been testing our drinking water for several PFAS compounds since 2008, in an effort to closely monitor our water quality. In recent years, we have been testing for 45 different PFAS compounds every year. We test Lake Michigan source water, the treated water from both our Linnwood and Howard water treatment plants, and the water in our distribution system at two sites throughout the City.

In addition to our own annual voluntary sampling, we also agreed to participate in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) one-time voluntary testing in summer 2022. We have included our results from this voluntary testing below. Starting in Fall 2022, we will also be required to test for two specific PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS) quarterly, based on a new WDNR regulation. Every year we publish our results for PFAS and many other tests in our Consumer Confidence Report, which can be found here

 

Milwaukee Water Works’ Results from WDNR Voluntary PFAS Testing

Below is a list of the 17 compounds that were NOT detected in Milwaukee Water Works drinking water during the voluntary DNR testing in summer 2022:
 
•    PFBS
•    PFHxA
•    HFPO-DA (also known as Gen X)
•    PFHpA
•    PFHxS
•    DONA
•    PFNA
•    9Cl-PF3ONS
•    PFDA
•    N-MeFOSAA
•    N-EtFOSAA
•    PFUnA
•    PFOA
•    11Cl-PF3OUdS
•    PFDoA
•    PFTrDA
•    PFTeDA 

The only results above the detection limit from the WDNR sampling project are listed below:

Sample Location
Linnwood Treatment Plant: PFOS = 1.82ppt
Howard Treatment Plant: PFOS = 2.08 ppt
(ppt = parts per trillion)

Milwaukee Water Works is committed to providing you and with safe, clean, drinking water. As your water supplier, we will continue to work closely with DNR and the EPA to maintain the quality of your water. Additional PFAS health information can be found at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/chemical/pfas.htm.

Frequently Asked Questions about PFAS


What is PFAS?

PFAS stands for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. It is a large group of chemicals used in industry and consumer products since the 1950’s. They have been widely used because of their ability to resist water, grease and heat while remaining chemically stable. Unfortunately, this stability means that they don’t break down easily in the environment, and can accumulate over time.

Are PFAS dangerous to humans?

Yes, over time humans can accumulate enough PFAS in their bodies to increase their risk of several health effects, including increased cholesterol levels, decreased antibody response to vaccines, increased risk of thyroid disease and decreased fertility in women. Humans can be exposed to PFAS through many sources, including food, water, packaging and cosmetics. 

How do PFAS get into the water?

There are many ways that PFAS can be washed into or discharged into our lakes and rivers. One of the most common ways is storm runoff near airports and military bases. PFAS has been commonly used in firefighting foam, so higher concentrations have been found in waterways near these facilities where regular firefighting training exercises take place. PFAS infiltration can also happen from landfills and industrial discharges.

Why are PFAS in the news so much lately?

When PFAS first started to be produced and used in the 1950’s, we didn’t know that they could accumulate in our environment and in our bodies, or that they could cause negative health effects. There has been a lot of new research on PFAS and their health effects in recent years. As more research is done, new regulations are created to address this problem. When there are new steps in the regulatory process or new research articles published, sometimes this catches the attention of reporters and media outlets.

What concentrations of PFAS are dangerous?

This is an area of ongoing research and debate. In 2016, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reviewed existing research and published a health advisory level of 70 ppt (parts per trillion) for two common PFAS compounds (PFOA and PFOS). Since then, more research has found health effects at lower levels. The WDNR suggested drinking water standards of 20 ppt for PFOA and PFOS in 2022, but the Natural Resources Board only approved 70 ppt based on EPA guidance. Later in 2022, the EPA announced new health advisory levels based on the most recent research. Some of these new health advisories are lower concentrations than can be measured with current laboratory instruments and technologies. This is part of the EPA’s rule making process, and some of these levels may change as the process progresses.

Latest PFAS Quarterly Testing Results


Required Quarterly Sampling, 4th Quarter, 2022: 


Annual 2022 Sampling:

 

 

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