Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers made commitments towards addressing the widespread proliferation of chemical compounds known as PFAS in the state’s water supplies, and now the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council is giving residents an update on what measures the state is taking to ensure that progress is being made.
According to the EPA, PFAS, nicknamed “forever chemicals,” stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and are “widely used, long lasting chemicals” that don’t break down for a long time. PFAS contaminants are widespread, appearing in water and food supplies at low levels and have been linked to health problems in both people and animals.
According to the latest PFAS “hotspot” map on the DNR website, Southwest Wisconsin, such as Waukesha County and Milwaukee County have some of the worst PFAS contamination in the state; while Brown County, Manitowoc County, and other counties adhering along Lake Michigan’s coastline saw consistently higher PFAS levels.
While PFAS contamination sites become markedly more sparse in counties more removed from Lake Michigan, places like Saint Croix County and La Crosse County still have a significant presence of PFAS chemicals.
Gov. Evers has said that PFAS pollution was a pressing issue that has a lot of people “scared” and “angry” as the state Natural Resources Board struggled to pass a standard earlier this year in which PFAS chemicals have to be regulated for consumer safety, particularly when it comes to safe drinking water.
The PFAS Action Plan Progress Report highlights that new administrative rules regulating some harmful chemical compounds went into effect on August 1, 2022, alongside a hazard index for aiding the Department of Health Services determine groundwater standards.
Other proactive measures include a new focus on collecting samples to more accurately collect data on just what PFAS chemicals are present in water supplies, as well as the creation of a PFAS map that will be made available to the public come the last quarter of 2022. Additional initiatives for the public include updated information on PFAS chemicals on government websites.
New rules setting standards for PFAS chemicals in surface water, as well as regulating the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam also went into effect on August 1, 2022. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Agriculture have implemented a $1 million program focused on the collecting and disposing of firefighting foam.
Another notable step is the announcement that the state is planning to take legal action against 18 companies that have caused significant PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.
The DNR has said that it is committed towards investigating contamination sites, with providing clean drinking water as its priority for residents.