Republican lawmakers to let weakened PFAS regulations take effect | Local Government

Republican lawmakers will allow regulations Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration developed to control pollution from toxic “forever chemicals” to take effect, according to a spokesperson for the Legislature’s rules committee.

The rules limit the amount of certain compounds known as PFAS allowed in surface waters and drinking water.

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Reviews has no objections to the regulations and will allow the Department of Natural Resources to implement them, Mike Mikalsen, an aide to committee co-chair Sen. Steve Nass, told the Associated Press.

Mikalsen warned that the committee could suspend the standards if the department doesn’t lawfully implement them, but the decision marks a rare Republican concession to Evers.

Department spokesperson Sarah Hoye didn’t immediately return a message.

Since taking office in 2019, Evers has been working to limit contamination from the compounds, which have been linked to cancer and other illnesses.

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Used in firefighting foam, packaging and stain-resistant products, PFAS have contaminated groundwater in communities including Madison, Marinette and Peshtigo, Marshfield, Wausau and the La Crosse County town of Campbell. Public health officials have warned people to limit consumption of fish from contaminated waters, including Black Earth Creek and all but two of Madison’s lakes.

The DNR began crafting PFAS regulations in 2019 and ultimately recommended limits for two compounds — PFOS and PFOA — in ground, surface and drinking water to the agency’s policy board.

Industry groups including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce opposed the regulations, which they said would be too costly.

The DNR estimated it would have cost the state’s businesses and local governments about $6 million per year to comply with the new regulations, while Wisconsin residents could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year in avoided healthcare costs.

The Natural Resources Board in February approved the surface water standards but the conservative majority rejected limits for groundwater, the source of drinking water for about two thirds of Wisconsin residents.

The board also adopted weakened limits for public drinking water supplies.

Tests have found some level of PFAS in all of Madison’s 23 municipal wells, though none above the proposed limit. The city has taken one well offline as a precautionary measure while exploring treatment options.

Earlier this year a Waukesha County judge ruled the DNR cannot require cleanup of PFAS contamination under the state’s spills law without first going through the 2.5-year rulemaking process for each contaminant.

However that ruling remains on hold while under appeal. The DNR said Friday that it will continue providing bottled water to residents with contaminated wells.

State Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has sued Johnson Controls for contaminating waters around Marinette, where a subsidiary manufactured firefighting foam with PFAS. 

Dane County has sued dozens of manufacturers in an effort to help pay for substantial cleanup costs related to contamination at the Madison airport. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Art of the Everyday: A recap of May in photos from Wisconsin State Journal photographers

Kayla Soren and Diego Frankel enjoy a breath of spring during a visit beneath a magnolia tree at the UW Arboretum in Madison, Wis. Monday, May 9, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Umalkher Samatar, center, plays with daughters Siham Ali, left, and Zubeida Ali during a party Saturday celebrating Eid al-Fitr at McGaw Park in Fitchburg. The holiday of Eid marks the end of Ramadan. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Lottie Stenjem arranges an assortment of flowers to put into vases that will be shipped out to retailers, at ERI Floral in Stoughton, Wis., Monday, May 2, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Chris Wallom, a facilities worker with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, harvests tulips from the grounds of the Wisconsin State Capitol as workers prepare the beds for incoming arrays of annuals in Madison, Wis. Monday, May 16, 2022. Each spring, following the short-lived growth period for the flowers, workers dig up the bulbs and make them available on a first-come, first-serve basis to residents looking to enhance their own properties for the following year. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Uri Andrews, of Middleton, holds up one of his 4-year-old twins, Benjamin, with Rafael, 2, bottom, to catch a whiff of the corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum, that bloomed after reaching a heigh of just under 68-inches, at Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ Bolz Conservatory in Madison, Wis., Thursday, May 5, 2022. The plant, which was a donation from UW-Madison’s D.C. Smith Greenhouse in 2006, last bloomed in 2010 to a height of 6-feet. Corpse flowers bloom four to five times on average during their 40-year lifespan. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Eva Theyerl, granddaughter of library aid Roberta Ryskoski, takes a nap at the Brandon Public Library in Brandon, Wis., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Genevieve Bouska, left, and Lulu Jaeckel, both seniors at West High School, relax in hammocks during an afternoon visit to Vilas Park in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, May 11, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Returning to the region during a seasonal migration, several great egrets share the shoreline of Wingra Creek as a light rain shower falls in Madison, Wis. Tuesday, May 3, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Looking forward to the birth of their second child in July, Aws Albarghouthi captures photographs of his wife, Maria Zarzalejo, during an afternoon visit to Vilas Park in Madison, Wis. Tuesday, May 17, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Brynn Wozniak and Ethan Cash, at right, both UW-Madison students, sit in the grass at Lisa Link Peace Park as they listen to the band LINE during the Madison Night Market in Madison, Wis., Thursday, May 12, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Continuing an annual tradition, graduates of UW-Madison pose for photos with the statue of Abraham Lincoln on Bascom Hill as they celebrate the conferring of their degrees on the campus in Madison, Wis. Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Enjoying an up-close look at the sculpture is School of Business graduate Danielle Lacke. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


UW-Madison graduating students, from left, Michael Walsh, Michael Burns, Jeremiah Clark and Noah Prudlo play a game of beer dice outside their fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, before attending the spring commencement ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, May 14, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Ke Thao and his 11-month-old son, Leo, share a fishing outing together from a pier at Vilas Park in Madison, Wis. Monday, May 23, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Students participate in a demonstration of infantry drills during Civil War Living History Days at the Milton House Museum in Milton, Wis., Friday, May 20, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Village of Lone Rock, Wis. worker Haydn Walsh organizes banners commemorating the military service careers of family members from the region as the village continues an annual tradition of honoring them with displays throughout the village from Memorial Day through July 4 Thursday, May 26, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Sisters, from left, Lydia Scovill and Charlette place flags at the gravesite of their great grandfather, who served as a Marine in World War II, at Roselawn Memorial Cemetery in Monona, Wis., Monday, May 30, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Visitors use a telescope, that was installed in 1879, to see the star Arcturus during one of the free public observing days at Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, May 18, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Cyclists make their way into a 3/4-mile-long tunnel along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail near the village of Norwalk, Wis. Wednesday, May 11, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL


Madison East’s Jonathon Quattrucci competes in the boys discus throw during a WIAA Division 1 Regional track meet at DeForest High School in DeForest, Wis., Monday, May 23, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Runners compete in the 100 meter dash prelims during the Capital Conference Championships at Lodi High School in Lodi, Wis., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Middleton’s Finn Patenaude celebrates his win in the 110-meter hurdles during the Big 8 conference meet at Monterey Stadium in Janesville, Wis., Friday, May 13, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Sun Prairie’s Miles Adkins celebrates clearing the bar in pole vault during the WIAA Division 1 Sectional in Sun Prairie, Wis., Thursday, May 26, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Wisconsin Heights Barneveld’s Lexi Pulcine, right, wins the 100 meter hurdles as Belleville’s Alexandra Atwell falls over the finish line during the Capital Conference Championships at Lodi High School in Lodi, Wis., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Wisconsin catcher Christaana Angelopulos tags out Michigan’s Lexie Blair at the Goodman Softball Complex in Madison, Wis., Friday, May 6, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Madison East High School students, including senior Harnish VanOers, center, freshman Carina Caspar, right, and sophomore Oscar Mora, at left, walk on East Washington Avenue to the state Capitol from school in support of immigrant rights to drivers licenses in Madison, Wis., Monday, May 2, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Demonstrators protest outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. A leaked draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court intends to overturn the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL


Volunteers, from left, Mark Thomas, Alysha Clark, Joy Morgen, Anne Habel and Jered Hoff place tombstones along Atwood Avenue at Olbrich Park signifying the U.S. military lives lost since 2001, as part of the Veterans for Peace Memorial Mile display, in Madison, Wis., Saturday, May 28, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL


Alex Rose, left, and Jasmine Devant of Jefferson, Wis. take in the sunset from atop an historic Native American earthen platform mound at Aztalan State Park in Aztalan, Wis. Monday, May 16, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

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