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Records Show Tyco Knew Source of Groundwater Contamination

Wisconsin-based Tyco Fire Products tested 168 wells and said they only found 56 that show evidence of chemical contamination. (jwvein/Pixabay)
Wisconsin-based Tyco Fire Products tested 168 wells and said they only found 56 that show evidence of chemical contamination. (jwvein/Pixabay)
February 5, 2019

MARINETTE, Wis. — State records show Tyco Fire Products knew that its toxic products were contaminating groundwater at least four years before they notified residents.

Reporting from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found the company discovered soil and well contamination on the Marinette manufacturer's fire training property in 2013, according to records at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The company was found to have some of the highest concentrations of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances which are linked to cancer and other health issues.

State law requires companies to immediately report pollution. But alderman Ken Keller, who chairs the city of Marinette's Water & Wastewater Utilities Commissions, said they weren’t notified until about a year-and-a-half ago.

"There were rumors that we knew about it years ago, and I said that was all BS,” Keller said. “We didn't become aware of it until November- whatever the day was of the meeting."

The company suspended spraying foam products outdoors after the 2017 meeting, and a month later distributed bottle water to residents whose private wells may have been affected. Tyco has said it didn't know about the contamination until 2016.

For decades, scientists have warned about the health impacts of the chemicals, and other companies have phased out production of them. Keller said he's not sure what to make of the health threat to citizens and he’s waiting for more information from the Department of Natural Resources.

"I feel it's safe, because when you look at parts per trillion, we couldn't drink enough water probably in our lifetime to have some serious effects from it,” Keller said. “I don't know. Until somebody can come up with numbers and everything, who can guess?"

Several people who have tested their well water and found contamination above the federal health advisory threshold report experiencing serious health issues. According to a lawsuit filed by Janell and Duane Goldsmith, they were impacted by gastrointestinal cancer, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and their two sons suffered developmental delays.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI