Toxic PFAS chemical plume detected in Green Bay

A large plume of toxic chemicals produced by a plant that manufactures firefighting foam has seeped through groundwater to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The chemicals belong to a family of compounds known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used widely in consumer products ranging from nonstick cookware and water-repellent sports gear to stain-resistant carpets. They’re also a key ingredient in fire-extinguishing foams. They can accumulate and persist in the human body for long periods, and exposure may lead to cancer and other health problems.

Groundwater and streams near the Tyco Fire Products in Marinette, Wisconsin, are contaminated with foam from the plant’s testing facility. Scientists used a chemical fingerprinting technique to trace the Green Bay PFAS to the Tyco facility.

Wisconsin’s attorney general last year sued Tyco and Johnson Controls, with which it merged in 2016, over PFAS contamination in the Marinette area.

Tyco said in a statement Tuesday it welcomed the Green Bay study, which was funded by the Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program, and that it had invested “tens of millions of dollars” to address the Marinette pollution. Those efforts include an “expansive” groundwater treatment system, soil excavation, and working to deliver “long-term drinking water solutions” in the area.