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Federal Legislation Could Set National Standard for PFAS Levels in Drinking Water


The Wisconsin DNR found elevated levels of PFAS in some fish in Silver Creek in Monroe County.

It, along with the Department of Health Services, has issued a new fish consumption advisory.

People shouldn’t eat more than one meal of brook or brown trout from the creek per month.

PFAS refers to a group of manmade chemicals that, when ingested, is linked to health risks including cancer. 

DNR Policy Advisor Mimi Johnson says this is just the latest advisory the two agencies have had to issue because of the chemicals.

Last fall, the DNR and DHS issued a ‘Do not eat’ advisory for the liver of deer harvested within 5 miles of the J-C-I/ Tyco Fire Technology Center in Marinette.

“Since 2019, there has been an increasing number of PFAS-specific [advisories], that may not already be issued or covered by a different advisory that might exist for mercury or PCBs. We anticipate that fish and deer data results throughout 2021 will continue to roll in and they may or may not result in new or update advisories,” said Johnson during a DNR/DHS webinar updating people on the PFAS situation in Wisconsin.

Right now, there at 35 sites in Wisconsin the DNR says have been impacted by PFAS-including two wells in the City of Rhinelander.

The PFAS Action Act introduce last week would require the EPA to establish a national drinking water standard for the chemicals that protect public health.

According to Rep. Ron Kind, one the Congressmen that sign onto the bill, it would:

  • Require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS within two years that protects public health, including the health of vulnerable subpopulations.  
  • Designate PFOA and PFOS chemicals as hazardous substances within one year and requires EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.  
  • Designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants within 180 days and requires EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.  
  • Require EPA to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and provides $200 million annually for wastewater treatment.  
  • Prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and places a moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce.  
  • Require comprehensive PFAS health testing.  
  • Create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware.  

Mimi Johnson said that legislation coupled with some state lawmakers have passed and are considering could make a difference in protecting people from the chemicals.

“We’re better together in our work to address PFAS. From our WisPAC action plan to the commitment of the agencies here today to ongoing and collaboration which is really a priority for PFAS,” said Johnson.

Johnson also said the Governor’s budget proposal could provide resources for testing and monitoring for PFAS.

His budget calls for $10 million a year for local communities.

“These grants will provide critical resources to help test private wells, as a remind, 1.7 million Wisconsin residents relay on private wells, provide temporary emergency water and work toward permanent safe water drinking solutions, continue to investigate PFAS contamination, engage in cleanup efforts, and this could also help support the fire departments as they work to replace their fluorinated that could be collected through the collection and disposal program,” said Johnson.

Wisconsin is also establishing PFAS standards for drinking water, groundwater and surface water to protect health and researching PFAS levels in fish and wildlife.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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