Read the full article by Danielle Kaeding (WPR)

“More than two-thirds of Wisconsin fire departments currently stock firefighting foam that contains so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS. More than half have bought, stored or used such foam in the past, according to a survey conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — are manmade chemicals that have been common in firefighting foam and everyday products since the 1950s. They’ve raised safety and environmental concerns because they don’t break down easily in the environment and they’ve been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. 

The survey was requested as part of Gov. Tony Evers’ budget and sought to define use of foam containing the chemicals, which is considered a significant source of PFAS contamination. Wisconsin joins other states like Michigan, Minnesota and Vermont as they work with departments to address environmental risks.

The DNR received responses from 72 percent of the state’s 825 fire departments, of which 77 percent replied that they had handled PFAS-containing foam. The data indicates 64 percent of all departments currently have such foam in stock. 

The findings were a bit surprising to Darsi Foss, administrator of the agency’s environmental management division.

‘I would have thought it would have been probably a little smaller because usually this is for like major industrial fires,’ said Foss, of the foam.

The agency estimates anywhere between 63,200 to 96,300 gallons of the foam is being stored across the state. The DNR said another 30,000 gallons of expired or unwanted foam needs to be disposed. 

The majority of those that responded — 63 percent — used the foam as part of emergency response to flammable liquids or gas, according to the DNR. Of those that handled the foam, 62 percent lacked policies or guidelines for its use. Less than 24 percent of departments surveyed used the foam for training and 23 percent said they never handled the foam.

A law that took effect this month bans the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS except in emergencies. The law allows testing, storage and disposal under specific conditions. But fire departments and other facilities using the foam must find alternatives to use for training…”