Water Committee members Chuck Boyle (left) and Cynthia Bauer (right) mark Xs on a map at the Nov. 4 Water Committee meeting to indicate locations where they would like to see additional PFAS warning signs installed.

EagleHerald Staff Writer

PESHTIGO—The lack of adequate signage could be putting community members at risk of PFAS exposure, representatives of the Town of Peshtigo said during their Nov. 4 Water Committee meeting.

Following the launch of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) investigation into the PFAS contamination from Tyco Fire Controls, a subsidiary of Johnson Controls, Inc., JCI/Tyco installed warning signs around drainage ditches and surface water locations in the Town of Peshtigo and City of Marinette to alert community members of potential PFAS exposure.

Water Committee member and retired hydrogeologist Jeff Lamont said in an interview with the EagleHerald, however, that the signs have been an issue since 2019 when they were first installed. In particular, some community members have been dissatisfied with their placement and verbiage, saying that the language and design of these signs don’t clearly communicate that there is a potential hazard.

The DNR, City of Marinette Alderperson Doug Oitzinger, Marinette resident Andi Rich, Lamont and a mediator from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) met in a virtual meeting about six months ago to discuss community members’ concerns regarding the signs. Following the meeting, Lamont and Oitzinger made a list of over 30 suggested locations for additional signs and sent the list to the DNR and DHS.

But the new sign locations and designs that the DNR and DHS presented at the Oct. 20 listening session were not what Lamont and others had envisioned.

“The DNR’s suggestions didn’t cover near the number of sign locations that we wanted,” Lamont said. Lamont added that the town wasn’t happy with the proposed language for the signs. “It was an improvement, but it’s still not what we think it should be,” he said.

DNR Complex Sites Project Manager Alyssa Sellwood said the suggestions presented in the listening session and in the DNR’s Sept. 9 letter to JCI/Tyco requesting improvements to the signs were meant to be a starting point. She said that JCI/Tyco can make changes to the signs based on community input.

It seems that communication between JCI/Tyco and Town of Peshtigo residents regarding the signs is moving in a positive direction. Water Committee member Chuck Boyle said he has spoken with a representative of Arcadis, the engineering company that works on behalf of JCI/Tyco, who had communicated to him that JCI/Tyco is open to redesign and discuss additional placements for the signs.

In terms of the reduced number of sign locations, Sellwood said that some of the suggested locations were removed along branches of Ditch A because those areas were not found to have levels of PFAS above the recommended threshold of 20 parts per trillion. In addition, Sellwood said locations that the DNR understood to be private single resident properties were omitted.

Lamont and Sellwood both expressed the hope that new signs will be installed in the next few months. They noted, however, that this may be challenging because of the onset of winter. Installation may therefore be delayed until the spring.

The sign improvements that Water Committee members are hoping to see are as follows:

  • Increased size of the signs
  • Possibly adding a QR code that links to more information about PFAS
  • Changing the verbiage of the signs to convey information more directly and clearly (Chairperson Cindy Boyle said the Town Board will review suggested verbiage at the Nov. 16 Town Board meeting)
  • Changing the look of the sign to be more colorful and clear
  • Increasing the number of sign locations