Read the full article by Todd Richmond (AP News)
“Republican legislators have proposed a sweeping new plan to address PFAS pollution that would create grants for local governments, limit regulators’ ability to delay projects on polluted property and mandate studies on how to treat contaminated water.
The bill would provide a mechanism for spending $125 million set aside by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee last month to deal with the chemicals.
‘The bill is a strong starting point,’ Rep. Jeff Mursau, the bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, said Monday during a public hearing on the measure before the state Senate’s natural resources committee. ‘We can find common ground to move this bill forward and protect our citizens and natural resources from these poisonous chemicals.’
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals that don’t break down easily in nature. They’re present in a range of products, including cookware, firefighting foam and stain-resistant clothing. They have been linked to low birth weight, cancer and liver disease, and have been shown to reduce vaccines’ effectiveness.
Municipalities across Wisconsin are struggling with PFAS contamination in groundwater, including Marinette, Madison, Wausau and the town of Campbell on French Island. The waters of Green Bay also are contaminated.
Republicans have already passed bills limiting the use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS but have resisted doing more amid concerns that clean-up, filtration upgrades and well reconstruction would cost tens of millions of dollars.
The state Department of Natural Resources last year adopted limits on PFAS in surface and drinking water and is currently working on limits in groundwater.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget proposal included $107 million for PFAS testing and mitigation. Republicans who control the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee last month scrapped that plan and replaced it with a $125 million trust fund for dealing with PFAS. The new bill would create avenues for spending it. Key provisions in the measure include:
— State Department of Natural Resources grants for local governments and public water utilities to test for PFAS; dispose of biosolids containing PFAs; and upgrade infrastructure and facilities. Owners of private polluted wells also could apply for grants.
— The DNR would be prohibited from requiring owners of abandoned industrial property from testing for PFAS unless the agency has information that the property is contaminated. It would also bar the DNR from preventing or delaying a development project based on PFAS contamination unless the pollution poses a risk to public health, the project could further degrade the environment, or if the entity looking to complete the project caused the original contamination through negligence.
— The DNR would need permission from private landowners to test their water for PFAS. The agency would be required to begin remedial actions at any contaminated site where the responsible party is unknown or can’t pay for remediation.
— A public water utility wouldn’t need permission from state regulators to upgrade facilities if the cost is less than $2 million or 50% of the utility’s operating expenses for the previous year and the move is in response to PFAS contamination that poses a public health concern.
— The University of Wisconsin System and the DNR would have to collaborate on PFAS treatment studies.
No groups have registered in opposition to the bill, according to state Ethics Commission records. A host of organizations have registered as neutral. The Wisconsin Realtors Association and the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools are the only groups that have registered in support.”…