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Natural Resources Board Votes to Move Forward with PFAS Standards for Groundwater

A sign at Marinette High School warns of PFAS contamination in water that runs through the school’s campus Thursday, May 20, 2021. Angela Major/WPR
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In a win for MEA and our clients, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) has allowed a regulatory effort to move forward that will protect Wisconsin communities from toxic PFAS pollution. 
 
According to a scope statement approved by the NRB on December 14, the DNR proposes adding some of the most widely studied PFAS chemicals—PFOS, PFOA, PFBS and GenX chemicals— to a list of substances designated as contaminants under Wisconsin’s Groundwater Law. A scope statement is the first step in developing enforceable groundwater standards through the administrative rulemaking process
 
That process had been nearing completion in February when it was abruptly ended by four members of the NRB who rejected proposed PFAS standards for groundwater, despite having voted to approve standards for drinking water and surface water. 

Two-thirds of Wisconsinites get their drinking water from groundwater, and one-quarter of Wisconsinites get their drinking water from private wells that are not subject to the same regulations as public water systems.

In July, MEA submitted a petition to the DNR to restart the rulemaking process on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and S.O.H2O, a grassroots group dedicated to securing safe drinking water for Peshtigo and Marinette residents.

In the Marinette and Peshtigo area, dangerous concentrations of PFOS and PFOA have been found in private drinking water wells sampled as part of the DNR’s ongoing investigations in the area. There have also been high-level detections in the Town of Campbell near La Crosse.

MEA has urged the DNR to continue the rulemaking process without delay. Because much of the groundwork has already been laid, we are hopeful that the process will move forward much more quickly than last time.

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