The DNR announced new water quality initiatives as part of Governor Evers' Year of Clean Drinking Water declaration.
The DNR asked the Department of Health Service to review 40 contaminants for possible groundwater quality standards. This work comes on the heels of the department asking DHS last spring to review an initial 27 contaminants, including very difficult to pronounce chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS have been used for decades in numerous products, such as non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain resistant sprays and firefighting foam.
Steve Elmore is Director of Drinking Water and Groundwater at DNR. He says the PFAS have been found to cause serious health concerns...
"..including low infant birth weights, affects on immune systems, cancer for PFOA's, one of the PFAS compounds, and thyroid and hormone disruption particularly for PFOS, another of the PFAS compounds..."
A subsidiary of Johnson Controls in Marinette has been providing drinking water to city residents affected by PFAS. Elmore says when they get more information back from DHS, they will begin a rulemaking process to regulate the use of these chemicals. He says this process will help put numbers into state law to determine how much is too much PFAS in the drinking water.
"..Currently we have a federal advisory that is 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. Why I mention that is it's very small amounts of these chemicals that I'm concerned about. Really, just what you consider to be trace amounts can be harmful to people's health..."
The DNR plans to spend an estimated $30,000 on inventorying former industrial and commercial activities to help determine the source of PFAS in Well 16, which provides water to part of Madison's west side, and Well 15, which helps serve the city's northeast side.