Environmental group petitions Wisconsin DNR to update law governing groundwater

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — Midwest Environmental Associates is asking the Wisconsin DNR to add toxic “forever chemicals” as contaminants under groundwater law.

The petition – filed July 1 by MEA on behalf of S.O.H2O and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin – asks that the DNR add two specific types of PFAS or “forever chemicals” to the list of groundwater contaminants. Proposed standards for groundwater were rejected by the Natural Resources Board in February.

“Nearly one million Wisconsin households with private wells rely on groundwater as their main source of drinking water,” said MEA Staff Attorney Rob Lee. “There is no federal law that directly protects their water. It is solely the state’s responsibility to act.”

The groups filing the petition point to a recent change in health advisory levels concerning from the federal level.

“The NRB passed a drinking water standard for users of municipal water systems, but left rural families, farmers and other users of private wells without protections,” said Debra Cronmiller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. “It shouldn’t matter whether your drinking water comes from a municipal water utility or a private well—everyone deserves to be protected from these dangerous chemicals.”

The road to enforceable standards could be a long one. Should the petition be granted, the list goes to the Wisconsin DHS who would recommend standards. Once that happens, the DNR can propose rules based on those standards.

The two types of PFAS chemicals the groups wanted added – PFOS and PFOA – pose a threat to drinking water throughout the state, according to MEA. DNR investigations found high concentrations in Marinette and Peshtigo area wells. La Crosse’s Town of Campbell also shows high level detections of these chemicals.

These chemicals can cause severe health issues such as kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, decreased antibody response to vaccines, and decreased fertility.

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