Wisconsin Administration Seeks Limits On “Forever” Chemicals In Groundwater
According to a report from the associated press, Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ administration plans to ask state environmental officials again for permission to develop limits on a group of chemicals known as PFAS in Wisconsin groundwater.
Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are scheduled to ask the agency’s policy board today (12/14) for permission to start drafting set numerical standards on four types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in groundwater.
DNR officials wrote in a memo to the policy board that they want to renew the process to establish groundwater standards for four substances after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued health advisories in June recommending standard ranges on each substance.
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA): 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt)
- Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS): 0.02 ppt
- Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS): 2,000 ppt
- Hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (known as “GenX” chemicals): 10 ppt
Policy board members adopted limits on PFAS in surface and drinking water earlier in the year but then stopped short on the agency’s proposal to set groundwater limits to 20 parts per trillion. This was based on concerns with the cost of drilling new wells and installing treatment systems, which could cost millions of dollars. AS of this moment well water remains unregulated for PFAS.
Several groups and businesses including; Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Paper Council, Midwest Food Products Association, and the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council Inc. submitted a joint statement in November urging the DNR to halt work on groundwater limits and wait for the EPA to create federal standards.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that don’t break down in nature. They’re found in a wide range of products, like nonstick cookware, food packaging, foams, cleaning products, and paints. Some research has linked the chemicals to health problems in humans and animals. According to studies, PFAS are present in the bloodstream of 98 percent of Americans. Some studies have found an association between exposure to several compounds in the PFAS family and an increased risk of certain health conditions.
The extended health effects of most PFAS have not been fully studied. Several Wisconsin communities are grappling with PFAS contamination in their groundwater, including Marinette, Madison, Wausau, and the towns of Peshtigo and Campbell. By one estimate, nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin residents use groundwater as their primary source of drinking water. Groundwater also feeds the state’s cold-water streams and lakes, and is used to irrigate crops.