Wisconsin To Miss Deadline On Action On PFAS Compounds

May 20, 2020

Crescent Spring near the city of Rhinelander, which was declared "Do Not Drink" after tests found high levels of PFHxS, a PFAS compound.
Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR

In a month, Wisconsin will miss a deadline for action on the chemical contaminant PFAS.

That’s the substance found in drinking water in Rhinelander and other places. It’s linked to higher cholesterol, thyroid issues, and cancer.

An executive order last year directed the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council to produce an action plan by June 30, 2020.

But the DNR says the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the work.

“Obviously, since we can’t meet and engage – this was really meant to be a transparent process – it’s very hard to solicit input and feedback from folks,” said DNR Environmental Management Division Administrator Darsi Foss.

The action plan is supposed to suggest steps the state can take to combat PFAS, the chemicals found in some nonstick wrappers, water-resistant clothing, and fire-fighting foam. Ingestion by humans has been linked to higher cholesterol, thyroid issues, and cancer.

In an interview, we asked Evers whether he’s comfortable with the committee’s delay in action.

“No, not at all, and that’s a great point,” he responded. “PFAS is a very large concern all across the state.”

“It’s certainly an issue in Rhinelander and some other places across the state, so we’re well aware of the issues,” Evers continued. “Regardless of the committee’s or the task force’s inability to come up with some recommendations, the DNR is on top of it.”

The DNR says the years-long rulemaking process for PFAS limits in groundwater, surface water, and drinking water is moving ahead.