Wisconsin — Today the Natural Resources Board of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources failed to approve a plan for better state standards to limit the amount of PFAS pollution in ground water.
The Board amended the drinking water standard to two and a half times more lenient than Department of Human Services recommendations based on the most recent science. Even the Environmental Protection Agency has signaled it will abandon the standard approved by the DNR Board. Board members cast a tie vote on groundwater standards, with Terry Hilgenberg abstaining, which failed to pass the proposed standards onto the Governor and State Legislature. The EPA does not regulate groundwater standards. The Board approved surface water standards.
The Natural Resources Board was created to insulate policy meant to protect public health and the environment from political influence. Today’s actions of the Board failed to approve standards for PFAS to protect our health, and demonstrates that that era has passed.
“Ultimately, the refusal of the Wisconsin State Senate to confirm the Governor’s appointees to the Natural Resources Board provided an excuse for Dr. Prehn to stay on the board past the end of his term,” said River Alliance of Wisconsin Senior Legal Analyst Bill Davis. “The Senate’s politically motivated inaction has kept an anti-environment bias on the board, which led to the failure of putting these rules in place to protect the health of Wisconsinites.”
These rules were important to protect public health. This is not an academic exercise. We know that there are PFAS issues in Marinette, Peshtigo, Madison, LaCrosse, Wausau and other Wisconsin communities. What we know so far is that PFAS are associated with certain types of cancer, harm to the immune system, interference with hormones, increased cholesterol, low birth weight, increased blood pressure in pregnant women and others. This list of health concerns regarding PFAS has grown over time as they are studied more. What the board did today, because of legislative inaction, is not protective of the health of the people of Wisconsin.
“Today, any past claims that Wisconsin was a leader when it comes to protecting human health and the environment are just that: past claims,” said Davis. “This is a sad day for all people in our state and for the health of our environment. The failure of the Board to approve better drinking and groundwater standards as recommended will lead to needless injury from exposure to these substances.”