ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Residents have probably heard of something called “PFAS” recently.

The rise of these “forever chemicals” has put the Winnebago County Health Department on high alert. Officials held an open house Tuesday evening in hopes of educating the community.

There is concern about the high rates of PFAS in some private wells in the county. Health officials said that while it is not a cause for panic, residents should be looking for a solution to this issue.

“You did not know about this, you did not create this problem, and we have to all work together to see what we can do to lower those levels in our community,” said Sandra Martell, public health administrator for Winnebago County.

Martell spoke to residents Tuesday evening about concerns of high rates of PFAS in private wells in some parts of the county.

“It’s important for people to know what’s going on so they can take immediate action,” Martell said. “It’s not an emergency situation.”

Health officials want resident to know there that there is no reason to panic, but that they should be aware of the dangers, as well as how to test for and fix the problem.

“People should know what steps they can take on a day-to-day basis to reduce their exposure, and especially among that population that we are most worried about, about immune systems developing, you know, bodies and brains,” Martell said.

The health department said that those most at risk are children under 6-years-old and pregnant women.

“I never had hooked up to city water since I lived there, and now I find out that the water is possibly bad, so I came to this meeting to find out about the quality of water and what I can do, and if the city was able to help me out with anything as far as hooking up to city water,” said resident Daniel Cooper.

The city estimates that it can cost a homeowner between $5,000-$10,000 to hook up to the city water service. If a person’s home is on a private well, testing the water quality is important.

The county health department will test residents’ wells for around $500.

“An opportunity to ask the individual entities here about the water,” Martell said. “What’s going on, what their options were, what’re our next steps as we move forward through really addressing PFAS in the Sandy Hollow area.”

There will be another open house from 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4620 20th St.

More information on PFAS can be found on the Winnebago County Health Department’s website.