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'I don't think we can wait,' Reactions to PFAS bill controversy

Posted at 10:30 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 23:30:50-05

MARINETTE COUNTY (NBC 26) — A bill that passed the Wisconsin legislature isn't getting past Governor Evers' desk.

• Governor Tony Evers will not sign off on a Republican-backed bill that could give funding to communities struggling with PFAS contamination
• Officials in Marinette County say the need for funding is urgent and could be implemented right away
• Those who oppose the bill say it could provide loopholes for the companies which caused the contamination to get out of being held accountable

In the town of Peshtigo, for years, people have been dealing with PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, contaminating their water.

"The genie's out of the bottle and you can't get it back in," Mark Bruemmer, who has lived in the town of Peshtigo since the 1980s, said Wednesday night.

He lives near the plume of toxic chemicals, known as PFAS, which made its way into his home's water.

"I'm being taken care of right now, but I do have some concern for my fellow citizens," he said.

Bruemmer said Tyco Fire Products provided his household with bottled water and eventually a filtration system. But, not everyone in town has gotten the same.

"There are residents who would like to have their water tested," Town of Peshtigo Chairperson Jennifer Friday said. "But, I was just told yesterday by a town resident, 'I'm not going to pay $600 to have my water tested.'"

Friday supports SB 312, a bill that she said could provide much-needed funding to residents for testing of their water and possible funding of filtration systems.

But, organizations like Midwest Environmental Advocates said the Republican-backed bill limits the state's ability to hold companies responsible for the contamination accountable, and that the bill doesn't automatically release the funds.

Governor Tony Evers, who won't sign off on the bill, posted on X Wednesday "There is no good reason that the $125 million the legislature and I both approved over 230 days ago to fight PFAS statewide should still be sitting in Madison."

"It's frustrating because we've dealt with this since 2017," Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot said.

He said in his office Wednesday afternoon he can see why people support the bill, but also understands why the governor won't sign off on it. But he knows one thing for sure.

"I don't think we can wait another year or two for this to happen, the funding needs to happen now."