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Ensuring Public Access to PFAS Pollution Records

The failure of Dane County and the Madison Water Utility to produce records related to PFAS contamination was a violation of Wisconsin’s Public Records Law. Midwest Environmental Advocates filed two lawsuits in circuit court to successfully compel disclosure of the documents.

Case Summary

In 2019, a grassroots group called Citizens for Open Government (COG) submitted two open records requests, one to Dane County and one to Madison Water Utility, for records related to PFAS contamination at Truax Field and Dane County Airport. 

More than seven months after asking for the records from Dane County, that request was partially denied on the basis that it was overly broad. Madison Water Utility also denied access to certain records, claiming it was in the public interest to withhold those records while it completed an investigation into the source of the contamination.

MEA responded by filing two lawsuits in circuit court on behalf of COG. The following month, MEA was able to obtain the Dane County records, and the parties agreed to settle the case, with Dane County paying for costs, fees, and damages. MEA was also able to obtain the records that Madison Water Utility improperly withheld, after which the parties agreed to dismiss that case.

Rob Lee

MEA Staff Attorney

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