Wisconsin slates more than $600,000 in federal EPA funds for communities to test water for PFAS

MADISON — The state of Wisconsin designated more than $600,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help communities sample municipal water supplies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Sampling is voluntary, but communities that choose to sample their municipal waters will have data to determine whether they are providing safe water to their residents, Gov. Tony Evers said in announcing the move Tuesday.

Communities that find water supplies contaminated with PFAS will be able to get assistance from the Wisconsin Natural Resources and Health Services to leverage all resources available to protect the health of the residents and address the contamination.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays, and certain types of firefighting foam. These contaminants have made their way into the environment through spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants and certain types of firefighting foams.

PFAS have contaminated private wells in the Town of Campbell on French Island in La Crosse County, with the problem blamed on firefighting foam used at the La Crosse Regional Airport. State agencies are providing more than 1,000 homes on French Island bottled water because of the groundwater contamination.

PFAS do not break down in the environment and are known to bioaccumulate in the tissues of fish and wildlife. They also accumulate in the human body and pose several risks to human health.

“PFAS are dangerous chemicals that we know impact the health and well-being of communities all across our state,” Evers said. “We have a shared mission and obligation as local, state and national leaders to make sure every family has access to clean, healthy drinking water now and for generations to come.

The Wisconsin PFAS Action Council recommended sampling of municipal drinking water systems in the Wisconsin PFAS Action Plan. The governor’s 2021-23 proposed budget included significant investments in drinking water sampling and resources for impacted communities.

The DNR is reaching out directly to all eligible utilities with more information. The agency’s website will continue to be updated with the latest developments and opportunities related to this voluntary sampling project.

The DNR and the DHS are developing state drinking water standards for several PFAS compounds, including 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of PFOA and PFOS. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board is expected to consider adopting state standards for PFAS compounds in drinking water, surface water and groundwater at its Feb. 23 meeting.

More information about PFAS in Wisconsin is available on the DNR’s website.

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