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Public Trust Podcast

In this award-winning podcast series produced by Midwest Environmental Advocates and Wisconsin Sea Grant, we visit Wisconsin communities impacted by PFAS contamination to understand how they’ve been affected and what they’re doing to secure their rights to clean water.

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Public Trust Lee Donahue

Episode 1: Tapped Out – 10/4/2023

What happens when an entire community can no longer use their tap water? In this episode, we travel to the small town of Campbell on French Island to find out. French Island resident and local official Lee Donahue gives us a tour of the neighborhood and tells the story of how local drinking water was contaminated. Along the way, we meet local residents who reveal how the crisis has changed their lives.

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Episode 2: Fighting Fires – 10/25/2023

In this episode, we return to French Island to learn more about how local drinking water was contaminated through the use of firefighting foam made from PFAS. We meet Mike Jorgenson, a retired firefighter and French Island resident, who explains how firefighting foam was used at the La Crosse airport for routine training and in emergency situations like plane crashes. We also learn how local residents are engaging directly with government officials to advocate for new environmental health protections, including a statewide groundwater quality standard for PFAS.

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Episode 3: Testing the Waters – 11/15/2023

How has PFAS contamination impacted Tribal members? Have PFAS chemicals been found in maple sap, wild rice, fish and other harvestable goods? These are some of the questions the Voigt Intertribal Task Force asked Gavin Dehnert, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s emerging contaminants scientist, after PFAS were found in wolves. In this episode, we take a look at the beginnings of a tribally-driven research project testing the waters of the ceded territories of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan for PFAS.

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Episode 4: David and Goliath – 12/19/2023

For the final episode of Public Trust, we head to the communities of Peshtigo and Marinette in northeast Wisconsin, where we meet local residents who have been engaged in a yearslong battle with a multinational company that polluted their drinking water with PFAS. We learn how community members have come together to fight for clean water and why they are committed for the long haul.

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Behind the Scenes

Richelle Wilson

Producer and Host

Richelle is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She joined MEA as a Public Humanities Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year. This spring, Richelle recorded interviews with scientists, journalists, community members, and others whose perspectives are featured in the series.

Bonnie Willison

Producer

Bonnie is a video and podcast producer with Wisconsin Sea Grant, where she uses her video and animation skills to showcase stories about Wisconsin Sea Grant’s work to promote the sustainable use of Great Lakes resources through research, education and outreach.

Peg Sheaffer

Script Editing

Peg is Director of Communications at Midwest Environmental Advocates, where she is always looking for new opportunities to bring visibility to MEA’s work to protect natural resources and public health in Wisconsin.

Special Thanks

We are grateful to Lee Donahue, Peter Davison, Jim Boisen, Margie Walker, Kayla Furton, Trygve Rhude, Mike Jorgenson, Pennie Jorgenson and Ruth Kowalski for sharing their stories.