Craig Koller grew up splashing through backyard creeks and biking gravel trails, sometimes through the Johnson Control Industries Fire Technology Center. Black smoke wafted overhead as it conducted controlled burns to test firefighting foam, producing a dangerous “forever chemical” known as PFAS.

As a kid growing up in the northern Wisconsin port city of Marinette, Koller didn’t think much of being around the facility or drinking the city’s water.

“How would you have known? There’s no signs (at that time) saying, ‘Stay out: contamination,’” Koller, 32, said.

But Koller’s formative years in Marinette likely altered his life forever: Right after graduating from high school in 2007, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The chemicals from the JCI facility contaminated the area’s drinking water. Polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals found in products such as household cleaners, paint, and firefighting foam that are linked to infertility in women, stunted developmental growth, and kidney and testicular cancers. While the problem has garnered legal and state attention, residents are forced to reckon with the contamination’s impact on their community — from using bottled water to cook to suffering from cancer.

“We’ve got woods and waterfront and an amazing community,” said Kayla Furton, a current Peshtigo supervisor who bought her childhood home from her parents five years ago. “What we came to know is we were moving our family into the middle of a massive contamination.”

Read the full article about water contamination by John McCracken at The Counter.