Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to Regulate PFAS

Feb. 15, 2022

The board will examine and vote on standards for PFAS in the state's drinking, surface and groundwater on Feb. 23.

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board is prepared to set up measures to regulate the amount of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Wisconsin's waters later this February.

The standards may be sent to the Legislature, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

The board will examine and vote on standards for PFAS in the state's drinking, surface and groundwater on Feb. 23. The compounds have been found in over 50 sites around the state.

The DNR has been researching and strategizing recommended standards, as well as conducting sampling since 2019, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The drinking water regulations would set a standard at 20 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS individually and combined, which is supported by the state Department of Health Services.

The rule would also establish initial and routine monitoring for public water systems and an approved sampling method. Water systems may apply for a waiver for routine monitoring if they meet the requirements. Additionally, if approved by the Legislature, any water system with PFOA or PFOS above the 20 ppt limit, either separately or combined, will be required to take immediate action to return to compliance. 

The implementation and compliance cost of the drinking regulations is expected to be more than $5.6 million in the first year. The DNR estimates that costs will fluctuate after the first year, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The DNR also estimates that nine public water systems will exceed the drinking water standards and will then need to install granulated activated carbon systems. However, they will have access to a Safe Drinking Water Loan program to finance the projects.

Proposed groundwater standards for PFOA and PFOS would be set at 20 ppt with a preventive action limit of 2 ppt, which would also trigger more testing. Some of the substances included in the rule are aluminum, E. coli bacteria, boron and cobalt. 

The estimated cost of compliance with the rule will be about $430,000 a year for local governments over a five-year period, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That includes the cost of wastewater sampling, groundwater monitoring and the management of biosolids.

For surface water, the proposed standards would set the preventive action limit for PFOS for 8 ppt for all waters except those that cannot naturally support fish and do not have downstream waters that support fish. For PFOA, the preventive action limit would be 20 ppt for waters classified as public water supplies, and 95 ppt for other surface waters. 

The estimated total cost for wastewater permittees would be more than $2 million for small businesses throughout the state, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Opposition has provided feedback that maintains that although federal standards for PFAS in drinking water are in the works, there are no federal standards for groundwater, which is the source of drinking water for a large number of state residents. 

A board meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at the State Natural Resources Building, 1010 S. Webster St. in Madison to discuss the matter, which will be broadcast live on the DNR's YouTube channel

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Cristina Tuser