Lawmakers, Evers Administration make strides on PFAS

During the Year of Clean Drinking Water, lawmakers and state agencies under the leadership of Gov. Evers have started to take early but important steps to curb PFAS pollution and protect public health in Wisconsin.

In May, the Chemical Level Enforcement & Remediation (CLEAR) Act was introduced by Senators Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison), Staush Gruszynski (D-Green Bay), and Melissa Sargent (D-Madison). This bill, which is one of the most comprehensive PFAS bills in the nation, requires DNR to establish health-based standards for six different PFAS chemicals. This bill also requires a standard for drinking water, groundwater, surface water, air emissions, solid waste, beds of navigable waters, and soils and sediment. This bill would allow the state to develop a long-term plan to address PFAS pollution and protect public health. Clean Wisconsin was happy to be a part of the bill’s introduction along with Governor Evers and DNR Secretary Cole at a press conference in Green Bay.

In June, the Department of Health Services (DHS) provided recommendations for a PFOA and PFOS combined groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt)—over three times lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory level of 70 ppt. This health standard came in response to a request by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to study a list of chemicals and provide recommendations for safe groundwater standards to protect public health. Prior to this, the DNR had not gone through this science-based process and revised their groundwater standards for over 10 years.

The next step in the process is for DNR to begin rulemaking to be able to fully enforce and regulate the new recommended standard. There will be an open comment period on DNR’s plan for enforcing this standard and public input and support at this stage is crucial.

Most recently, Gov. Evers signed an executive order in August that, among many things, directs the state to create a public information website on PFAS, work with local governments to develop wastewater screening programs to identify sources of PFAS, expand monitoring of PFAS to protect human health, and create a PFAS Coordinating Council. This action by the governor adds to the list of efforts by elected officials to take a broad and comprehensive approach to tackling PFAS pollution statewide.

During the Year of Clean Drinking Water addressing PFAS has become a priority in Wisconsin. This issue is not one that can be solved overnight; it requires long-term solutions and something we are only just beginning to start. As the Water Quality Task Force prepares to make policy recommendations for addressing drinking water pollution statewide, it’s critical they join the governor and other lawmakers in supporting strong policies to protect Wisconsin residents from the harms of PFAS pollution.

We are pleased that PFAS pollution has been a top issue for Gov. Evers, and we look forward to working with his administration and with lawmakers to find a coordinated and collaborative approach to this issue.

This post has been updated.