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Town of Campbell Gets County Funding to Research Long-Term Water Solutions

Chloe Hilles, La Crosse Tribune | Published on 11/26/2022

The town of Campbell will get a test well to aid in finding a long-term solution to remediate PFAS contamination and provide the island with a clean water source.

La Crosse County approved over half a million dollars for Campbell for the well construction and for research into long-term and safe water solutions.

On Monday, Nov. 14, the county first approved $100,000 for the test well and additionally $500,000 to supplement the research that will stem from the test well.

“We’ve been really blessed with La Crosse County. We’ve had a tremendous teamwork approach working with them,” said Lee Donahue, supervisor for the town of Campbell. “At the meeting last week, there was a lot of support, recognizing that our lives and the way that we live in our home, our quality of life has been substantially impacted by the PFAS contamination.”

The test well will be drilled more than 300 feet below the surface to the Mount Simon deep aquifer, which hasn’t been accessed yet for PFAS testing. To reach the deep aquifer, engineers will drill through the contaminated upper aquifer and through a bedrock layer that is a barrier between the two aquifers.

“The biggest thing we hope to find is that there is a protective layer of rock that exists between the two aquifers and that the lower aquifer does not contain any other type of contamination or product that could be harmful,” Donahue said. “If this is a clean safe water source that could be used for a municipal system, that would be the best news to find out.”

Donahue wants it to be clear that residents should not invest in drilling private wells deeper to reach the second aquifer. Not only is it a costly project, but the more drilling that occurs through the bedrock can lead to an increased potential for contamination from the shallow aquifer to the deep aquifer.

La Crosse County approved an additional $500,000 for extensive research into the aquifer and bedrock. The funds are approved based upon additional information about how the research will be conducted, and will be distributed to Campbell once that information is received.

This research will not only help the town of Campbell find a safe water source but will also help inform the rest of the county about potential future PFAS contaminations.

A contamination plume in the shallow aquifer is moving as it flows with the groundwater. Ideally, the research will show which direction the groundwater flows, which areas are at risk of future contamination, how far the bedrock stretches and of course, if the deep aquifer is a viable source of drinking water.

In 2003, the United States Geological Survey conducted research about the groundwater flow and bedrock buffer in the region. Donahue said it is time for updated research.

“We know that the plumes are growing and moving. We want to make certain that we can do everything in our power to prevent this from happening and if it’s on the move and headed toward another community, that they get the best heads up that it’s coming to a community near you and what can you do,” Donahue said.

Donahue said the town of Campbell is putting together a plan for the groundwater research: a timeline, how it will be conducted and the cost. Various agencies, like USGS’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, USGS’s Upper Midwest Water Science Center in Middleton and the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, will work together to investigate the groundwater.

The test well will be located at Norm Wardwell Memorial Park, just a block northwest of the Clinton Street and Bainbridge Street intersection. Donahue said this location was specifically selected because private wells at nearby residences have shown low to no levels of PFAS contamination.

The park is also in an area that isn’t prone to flooding and it is easily accessible by road.

Bids for the project are to be presented to the town on Wednesday, Nov. 30. After a bid is selected, the town will be able to move forward with the construction and drilling of the test well. Testing and research from the well will occur until at least March 2023 and all testing results and research will be made public.

Davy Engineering Co. has been a partner with the town of Campbell in engineering projects for decades. Davy Engineering is the project manager and is in charge of writing out the specs of the project, scope of work and facilitating the bidding process for the project.