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Environmental and public health groups petition for PFAS standards

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Posted at 2:32 PM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 15:32:05-04

MADISON (NBC 26) — Environmental and public health groups represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) petitioned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to list toxic PFAS chemicals as contaminants under Wisconsin's Groundwater Law.

The petition was filed on July 1, by MEA on behalf of S.O.H2O and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Filing the petition is the first step to restarting the process of developing enforceable standards for PFAS in groundwater. Originally the process was nearing completion in February but the Natural Resources Board rejected the proposed groundwater standards which abruptly stopped the process, even though the board voted to approve standards for drinking and surface water.

“PFAS contamination in our groundwater is an urgent problem that requires immediate action,” said Doug Oitzinger, a Marinette resident and a member of S.O.H2O. “This petition gives state officials an opportunity to move quickly to protect public health.”

In a statement made by MEA, they believe the rulemaking process can now be completed in a much shorter period of time than the previous process, which started in 2018 and ended with the NRB’s vote in February. In the petition, they point to the fact that the DNR has already made necessary factual findings about PFAS and to the fact that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced updated PFAS health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS.

“The Natural Resources Board chose to put politics ahead of public health when it arbitrarily set a drinking water standard three and a half times higher than the health-based recommendation and when it rejected the proposed groundwater standard altogether,” said Jeff Lamont, a resident of Peshtigo and a member of S.O.H2O.

Organizations have asked the DNR to add PFOS and PFOA to the list of groundwater contaminants. If the petition is granted, the list will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which will recommend health-based standards. Once those recommendations are complete, the DNR will propose rules to adopt the standards.

Recent toxicological and epidemiological data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirms that these substances present a serious health risk. The EPA pointed to recent scientific studies when it announced earlier this month that it had dramatically lowered health advisory levels for PFOA and PFOS.

To learn more about the development of environmental safeguards and to learn about the petition filed visit midwestadvocates.org.