Campbell residents call for revised Wisconsin PFAS rules after EPA lowers safe levels

TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (WKBT) — New health advisories may change the way Wisconsin measures PFAs contamination — and Town of Campbell residents where wells are contaminated want that to happen.

In the past, the Environmental Protection Agency has said exposure to PFAS chemicals should be limited to 70 parts per trillion. On Wednesday, the EPA lowered its recommended levels for some of the PFAS chemicals to less than 1 part per trillion.

PFAS, often referred to as forever chemicals because they take so long to dissipate, have contaminated private and municipal wells in Wisconsin, including hundreds on French Island

“We have identified PFAS in 2,000 — over 2800 places,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group.

The chemicals have been linked to various health issues including thyroid disease and cancer.

“We need to take a stronger look at this,” said Campbell health supervisor. “The science is clear.”

Water systems are not required to get tested consistently for PFAS.

“There’s no ongoing requirement because PFAS are not what are called regular continents under the safe water drinking act,” Benesh said.

In February, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board chose to not have a PFAS standard for ground water.

“We were stunned,” Donahue said. “I mean, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around why.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health recommended an advisory of 20 parts per trillion. The DNR failed to pass the recommended advisory and set the standard to 70 parts per trillion.

“We don’t trust the state of Wisconsin numbers, we’re going to go with the EPA,” Donahue said.

On Wednesday, the EPA lowered its advisory for acceptable levels for some PFAS chemicals.

“For PFOA it is 0.004 parts per trillion. For PFAS, its 0.02 parts per trillion,” said Benesh.

Following the new advisory, Donahue hopes the state of Wisconsin will reconsider its standards.

“I feel that the new EPA standard forces the state to go back and relook at those standards,” she said.

The Environmental Working Group says standards also should be set for companies that use PFAS.

“Polluters who are upstream from drinking water sources and drinking water facilities shouldn’t get a free pass,”  Benesh said.

The EPA says $1 billion in grants will be available through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities alleviate PFAS contamination.

“We intend to apply for those specialized funds from the bill,” she said.

In the meantime, communities say they believe there’s progress in the fight against PFAS. The EPA says this isn’t the final advisory, and an updated advisory will be issued in the fall.

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