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So many of us live in Wisconsin’s Northwoods or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula because we love what surrounds us every day. We love the clear water, the clean air, and the lush forests. WXPR’s environmental reporting as part of our expanded series, The Stream, focuses on the natural world around us. The Stream is now about more than just water: it brings you stories of efforts to conserve our wild lands and lakes, scientific studies of animal and plant life, and potential threats to our environment. Hear The Stream on Thursdays on WXPR and access episodes any time online.

Federal Delays In PFAS Regulation Frustrate States

Godfrey and Kahn

As Wisconsin works toward setting up enforceable limits for PFAS in water, it’s already behind several other states.

But the federal government seems to be trailing even farther behind in protecting the public.

The man-made group of chemicals got more attention in Wisconsin once it was found contaminating water supplies like Rhinelander’s.

The contaminant, linked to health risks, is present across the country.

But the actions taken by different governments are a hodgepodge.

“There’s a lot of inefficiency in the states,” said environmental lawyer Ned Witte of Godfrey and Kahn.  “States are basically undertaking their own toxicological analyses, coming up with numbers that they believe are appropriate for concentrations of PFAS compounds in groundwater.  But there’s a lot of duplication of effort between states.”

Witte said states are frustrated with the federal government.

Last year, it said it wanted to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance, which would mean it would be eligible for Superfund cleanup money.

But the EPA has yet to take formal action.

“So many municipalities in Wisconsin and across the country depend upon federal money, in the form of grants, coming through to be able to underwrite the cost of remediation of brownfields and properties that are contaminated that need to be put back into productive use,” Witte said.

The EPA also has yet to establish enforceable maximum contamination levels for PFAS in water.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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