public trust podcast

Episode 1: Tapped Out

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What happens when an entire Wisconsin 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. She explains how the community’s drinking water was contaminated by PFAS-containing firefighting foam that was used at the La Crosse Regional Airport.

Along the way, we meet Peter Davison, a local resident who grew up on French Island and is now raising kids of his own here.

“It’s hard knowing that as a parent, you’re always trying to look into the things that your kids are eating, that they’re drinking, trying to make sure you’re making healthy decisions. And then there’s things like this where you didn’t even realize it was on the radar until somebody showed up and told you to stop drinking your water.”

We also meet Peter’s neighbors, Margie Walker and Jim Boisen. They moved into their house on French Island in 1979, just after they got married. Like Peter, Jim and Margie think of their house on French Island as their forever home. 

“When we bought this house, we thought they were going to have to drag us out. We’ve put so much into this place,” says Jim. “I’ve painted the outside three times. I’ve done the whole inside at least three times. I replumbed the whole house. We put all new windows in, new doors, everything was going great. And then all of a sudden…”

For some perspective on drinking water regulation in Wisconsin and the impact of PFAS on human health, we also talk with Tony Wilkin Gibart, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates and Rashmi Joglekar, a toxicology and environmental health scientist of the University of California, San Francisco.