Read the full article by Danielle Kaeding (Wisconsin Public Radio)

“After heated debate, the policy-setting board for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has signed off on the state regulation of so-called harmful forever chemicals in drinking water, although at a less protective standard than the agency proposed.

The Natural Resources Board voted 6-1 to approve a drinking water standard of 70 parts per trillion for two of the most widely studied PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. Marcy West was the lone dissenting vote in favor of the DNR’s more restrictive standard. The agency proposed a threshold of 20 parts per trillion as recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The regulation approved by the board is in line with the health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016.

The chemicals have raised concern among residents because they don’t break down easily in the environment.

Multiple studies of people living and working in areas with high PFOA levels have shown links to serious health effects that include increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and fertility issues. The chemicals have also been tied to reduced response to vaccines .
Debate over the appropriate level of regulation for the chemicals drew heated exchanges at times among board members and DNR Secretary Preston Cole.

Board members Terry Hilgenberg and Bill Bruins, current board chair Greg Kazmierski and former chair Dr. Fred Prehn questioned the 20 parts per trillion standard recommended by health officials and the DNR’s analysis of costs tied to complying with the proposed regulations.

Prehn said he felt 70 parts per trillion is a good compromise that would allow the agency to move forward with testing of public water supplies for the chemicals.

‘It’s a good starting point. It’s based on science — the Obama EPA,’ Prehn said.

Hilgenberg said he felt more comfortable with a standard in line with the EPA’s health advisory level, citing mistrust of state health officials based on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘When you come to the ‘People’s Republic of Madison,’ I have to wear a mask, and it’s ridiculous. … I don’t have the trust with DHS,’ Hilgenberg said.

Bruins said the cost of implementing the agency’s proposed standard would be ‘astronomical.’ Kazmierski said the DNR’s economic review may be incomplete due to the small number of systems that have been tested to date.

Board members Bill Smith and Sharon Adams voted for the regulation, but they qualified their votes by saying they don’t believe the threshold goes far enough to protect public health.”…