Court ruling allows Wisconsin DNR to continue bottled water for families fighting PFAS
Town of Campbell, other municipalities have hundreds of affected families
WAUKESHA, Wis. (WKBT) — A court ruling Tuesday will allow the state of Wisconsin to continue to address PFAS contamination, including providing bottled water to residents in municipalities such as the Town of Campbell that are struggling with contaminated wells.
The ruling in Waukesha County Circuit Court extended a temporary stay on an April decision to limit the state’s authority to alleviate toxic PFAS contamination under Wisconsin’s Spills Law.
The ruling will allow the state Department of Natural Resources to continue cleaning up PFAS contamination and providing bottled water to families whose drinking water is contaminated, according to officials.
The Midwest Environmental Advocates organization hailed the ruling, with MEA staff attorney Rob Lee saying the Waukesha ruling “will limit the physical, mental and economic harm suffered by those living in and around PFAS contamination sites in Wisconsin.”
The ruling was the most recent development involving a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby. WMC sued the DNR in an effort to limit the agency’s ability to investigate PFAS contamination and require responsible parties to clean up contaminated sites.
In April, Judge Michael Bohren sided with WMC, though he placed a temporary stay on the decision in response to concerns that it would endanger public health and create regulatory confusion.
MEA filed an amicus brief arguing for an extension of the stay while the DNR appeal is pending. The organization is participating in the case on behalf of several environmental and public health advocates, including Citizens for a Clean Wausau, Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Environmental Health Network and Doug Oitzinger, a former mayor of Marinette.
“We are confident the DNR’s efforts to keep Wisconsin families safe from PFAS contamination will ultimately be vindicated,” MEA attorney Lee said.
The DNR is providing bottled water to residents of several communities throughout the state, including several hundred in the Town of Campbell. There and elsewhere on Frentress Island, the contamination is blamed on PFAS from firefighting foam previously used at the neighboring La Crosse Regional Airport.
PFAS, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because it takes so long for them to dissipate, are a class of synthetic compounds in a broad variety of manufacturing processes and consumer products such as firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant carpets, cleaning products and more. PFAS have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, reproductive issues, thyroid disease, immune system issues and other health problems.
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