Read the full article by Savannah Kind (The Badger Herald)

“Lee Donahue had been a town supervisor for the town of Campbell located on French Island for all of six months when news came to her that the town’s drinking water and groundwater had PFAS in it – forcing her to quickly get up to speed on the dangerous class of chemicals and what contamination meant for the island she’d called home for nearly 15 years.

PFAS, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a large class of chemical compounds, some of which have been linked to adverse health effects including decreased fertility, cancers, developmental delays in children, high cholesterol and more. Sometimes called ‘forever chemicals,’ PFAS are found everywhere — from non-stick pans and fast food wrappers to dental floss and firefighting foams.

Though PFAS were first created in the 1930s, the extent to which these chemicals impact human and ecological health is still being researched.

For the Wisconsin residents of Campbell, the news of these unknown substances appearing in the water bodies surrounding the island they live on was devastating. Not only is water crucial to everyday tasks and life, Lee said residents have to think twice before swimming, fishing and gardening — activities integral to Wisconsin culture

Despite a growing body of research that indicates exposure to these chemicals can be harmful to the human body, the Environmental Protection Agency has not created official standards for state regulators to determine how much PFAS can safely be in drinking and groundwater — though the EPA has said they are in the process of creating them.

In the absence of federal standards, some states have taken the initiative to set their own standards — varying widely in the amount and form of PFAS as well as the action utility companies need to take to after releasing the chemicals into the environment. But Wisconsin has not set any enforceable state standard despite the looming dangers and unknowns of PFAS.

The state government’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back nature of establishing environmental policy has left some Wisconsin communities without the money or a clear path forward to remedy the ever-growing PFAS contamination in Wisconsin water.

How we got here

French Island was not the first community to raise alarms about PFAS contamination in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employee Jim Zellmer, who serves as the deputy administrator for the Environmental Management Division, traces current discussions about PFAS in Wisconsin to 2017. Tyco, formerly Johnson Controls, notified the towns of Marinette and Peshtigo that their waste releases had contained high levels of PFAS compounds that made their way into drinking and groundwater supplies.”…