Frequently Asked Questions About PFAS
What are Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluroralkyl Substances (PFAS) and why are they harmful?
PFAS substances (also known as forever chemicals) are a large group of manmade chemicals that have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an emerging contaminant on the national landscape. Since the 1950’s, PFAS has been used in many consumer and industrial processes. They are resistant to heat, water, and oil, making them ideal for applications such as firefighting foam, non-stick coatings, waterproofing materials, upholstery, stain-resistant carpets, personal care products, and more. PFAS have been found at low levels both in the environment and in blood samples of the general U.S. population. For more information, use this link: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/PFAS.
How could I be exposed to PFAS?
People are mainly exposed to PFAS when they enter the bloodstream by swallowing water or eating food. PFAS can be found in drinking water, in food packaging, or in products used for cooking.
PFAS chemicals do not easily absorb into the skin. It is unlikely that you would be exposed to PFAS by touching products that contain the contaminant.
How does PFAS get into the drinking water?
- PFAS can get into the drinking water when products or wastes containing them are disposed of, used, or spilled on the ground or into lakes and rivers.
- PFAS chemicals move easily through the ground, getting into groundwater that is used for some drinking water supplies or private drinking water wells.
- PFAS can be released by facilities into the air which end up in rivers and lakes and the drinking water.
- PFAS chemicals can be discharged into water bodies as part of industrial processes from manufacturing facilities. If the water bodies serve as sources of drinking water, the PFAS can be taken up by the water utility during the treatment process. The City of Pewaukee Water Utility does not produce PFAS.
- PFAS are also discharged from homes where they are found in all kinds of domestic products and end up in the sewer system.
How can PFAS affect people’s health?
At this time, the health risk is low. Some scientific studies suggest that certain PFAS may affect different systems in the body. The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)/Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) is working with various partners to better understand how exposure to PFAS might affect people’s health – especially how exposure to PFAS in water and food may be harmful. Although more research is needed, research involving humans suggests that high levels of certain PFAS may lead to high cholesterol levels, reduced antibody response to some vaccines, reproductive and developmental problems, negative impacts to the immune system, and more. For more information, visit https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html.
How can I reduce my exposure to PFAS?
PFAS are present at low levels in some food products and in the environment (air, water, soil, etc.), so you probably cannot prevent PFAS exposure altogether. However, if you live near known sources of PFAS contamination, you can take steps to reduce your risk of exposure. Read consumer product labels and avoid using products with PFAS.
What were the PFAS test results for the City of Pewaukee?
PFAS was found above the Department of Health Services (DHS) health recommended advisory levels at 1 of the City’s 12 municipal wells. Well #8 was shut off on June 21, 2023. The City of Pewaukee Water Utility is only using water from the 10 wells tested with levels below the health advisory/hazard index guidance levels. (Water from Well #5 is only used periodically for emergency back up in the event of equipment failure, extreme water demand, or fire event.)
The water from the 10 wells is pumped into the water piping system and water towers. The water is combined in the pipes and towers providing blended water to homes and businesses. (Your property is not served by a specific well.) People and businesses can continue to use the water from the City of Pewaukee municipal water utility.
The City of Pewaukee Water Utility is not in violation of any drinking water standards or regulations. The City has proactively taken action to protect the health of its customers by shutting off Well #8.
What are the current standards for Wisconsin for PFAS?
Governor Evers signed Executive Order #40 which established the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council and they, in turn, developed the Wisconsin PFAS Action Plan. The Action Plan contains the standard-setting process, sampling techniques, pollution prevention, public education, and other items. For more information, visit https://widnr.widen.net/content/d4vyg9qqwj/pdf/EM_PFASActionPlan.pdf
The EPA and the DNR are currently working on setting standards. The DHS set the DNR-recommended groundwater standards for 18 PFAS. These recommendations are based on available scientific information and are set to protect sensitive populations. View recommended groundwater standards at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/chemical/pfas.htm
The City of Pewaukee Water Utility strives to produce safe drinking water for its consumers and is subject to the new regulatory standards for water quality. For more information, use this link: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/PFAS/Impacts.html
How can I learn more?
Listed below are a number of websites you can visit for more information.
Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry:
or call (800) 232-4636
Environmental Protection Agency:
Food and Drug Administration:
National Toxicology Program: