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State, Federal Lawmakers Press For PFAS Standards For Groundwater

Wisconsin Republicans, US Sen. Tammy Baldwin Want More Action

Joscarfas (CC-BY-ND)

State and federal lawmakers are pressing for standards to protect the public from PFAS contamination of groundwater.

State Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would require the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to create statewide, health-based groundwater quality standards for PFOA and PFOS. The two contaminants are the most studied perfluorochemicals that have been known to be hazardous and associated with cancer, thyroid disorders and developmental issues.

The agency has already been working with the state Department of Natural Resources on developing standards.

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State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay co-sponsored the legislation.

“DHS had said last session that they would be coming up with their limits on PFAS. It just seemed like it wasn’t happening as quickly as it should have happened was the impression they gave, I guess,” said Kitchens. “Basically, we did this to get it done.”

State officials are expected to release standards for those two chemicals sometime this summer. Kitchens said he’s pleased with the agencies’ timeline and that they’re addressing the matter. He added the bill doesn’t change their methods or process for developing safe levels.

“We’re not changing any of that. We just wanted to make sure there was a focus there and that they were committed to getting this done,” said Kitchens. “And, I do appreciate that Gov. (Tony) Evers has certainly spoken on it and put some things into his budget that would help address the problem.”

DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said on Monday the agency is continuing to work toward delivering a complete list of 27 groundwater contaminant recommendations to the state DNR.

“We have prioritized this, and we are working diligently to complete the process. As you can imagine, it takes time due to its technical nature and the importance of its impact on all Wisconsinites,” said Goodsitt in an email. “We look forward to working with the governor, our partners and the Legislature to improve water quality for all Wisconsin residents.”

At the federal level, U.S. Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, is also pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set federal standards for PFAS chemicals. She is among 18 senators who sent a letter asking for any communications between the EPA and U.S. Department of Defense. The letter came after the New York Times reported the DOD asked the White House to adopt weaker standards than those suggested by the EPA.

“As the leaders of agencies paramount to the safety and security of our nation, it is crucial that DOD and EPA work collaboratively to address the health and environmental challenges associated with PFAS,” the senators wrote.

The letter also called for a joint agency briefing on interagency efforts to address contamination. The EPA has said it expects to release federal standards on safe drinking water levels for PFOA and PFOS by the end of the year.