Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend $25 million dollars to address PFAS issues over the next two years.
PFAS became familiar to people in the Northwoods two years ago, when Rhinelander had to shut down two of its five municipal water wells due to PFAS contamination. Those wells remain off today.
When ingested, the PFAS group of chemicals can lead to higher risks of certain diseases and cancer in humans.
Evers wants to spend $10 million a year to help communities, like Rhinelander, who have had their water contaminated by PFAS. It’s part of the state budget the governor proposed earlier this month.
Sarah Peterson, the science director for Wisconsin’s Green Fire, was happy to see the plan.
“We’re really pleased to see the level of support and investment into the monitoring, the testing, remediation of PFAS, kind of all of the important buckets that we need to be considering when we’re talking about PFAS contamination,” Peterson said.
The proposal also calls for $750,000 to test public water systems all across the state.
Dozens of water sources have been found with elevated levels of PFAS, but those tests have been voluntary. No communities are required to test for PFAS, like is the requirement in Michigan.
In fact, a WXPR investigation last year found Rhinelander has the only Northwoods system that has ever been tested for PFAS. The rest simply don’t know if there’s contamination.
“We don’t know the full extent of contamination across the state. We could be looking at a much larger issue than what we see right now,” Peterson said. “Being able to test as much as we can and making that test information publicly available, kind of like what Michigan has done, it would be a really fantastic step for Wisconsin.”
Evers’ plan adds 11 DNR staff members to work on PFAS issues, including implementing an enforceable limit for PFAS in water. The Republican legislature will now consider Evers’ proposal.
Wisconsin’s Green Fire is also excited the Biden administration plans to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance. That means the federal government could develop a national limit for concentrations of the chemical.