Natural Resources Board Sees Widespread Public Support for State PFAS Standards

Close up of child's hands, filling glass of fresh water from tap in kitchen

Elected leaders from communities across Wisconsin are calling on the Natural Resources Board (NRB) to approve state standards for harmful PFAS chemicals. The NRB will decide on Wednesday whether to approve the state’s first ever water quality standards for PFAS, which have been found at high levels in waters around Wisconsin, prompting numerous drinking water and fish consumption advisories.

“Everyone should be able to eat the fish they catch and drink the water flowing from their taps. But in dozens of communities across the state, PFAS contamination is putting our waterways at risk,” says Clean Wisconsin Water Program Director Scott Laeser. “As we begin to address pollution from these ‘forever chemicals,’ our actions must flow from water quality standards that—above all else—protect public health.”

Last week, elected officials in Eau Claire, Peshtigo, Wagner, La Crosse, Madison and Marinette signed on to a letter urging the NRB to adopt the science-based PFAS standards proposed by the Department of Natural Resources to protect public health. All six of those communities are dealing with contaminated drinking water because of PFAS pollution.

“Our communities need help, and they deserve it now,” the letter states. “We cannot wait years to know what is in our water and begin the process of cleaning it up. Other states around us have already passed similar standards.”

Concern over PFAS pollution extends to virtually every corner of the state. Last week, Wisconsinites from more than 80 cities, towns and villages signed on to a Clean Wisconsin petition calling for state PFAS standards that will bring more testing and cleanup.

“We need standards now and widespread testing for PFAS pollution,” Laeser says. “Wisconsin families deserve to know whether the water they drink is safe, and only testing and enforceable standards can provide that peace of mind

PFAS are a group of chemical compounds used in a vast array of products, from firefighting foam to fast food wrappers. Product brands like Gore-Tex, Teflon, Stainmaster, and Scotchguard all contain PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment and can persist in the human body. High-level exposure to some types of PFAS are linked to a host of health impacts including reduced response to vaccines, lower birth weight, thyroid disease, increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, and kidney and testicular cancer.