Wisconsin Legislature considers more funds to monitor, clean up PFAS

It has two co-sponsors from Green Bay.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 2:30 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2023 at 5:33 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Communities struggling with the impact of PFAS contaminants, also known as “forever chemicals,” could see some additional funding to offset the costs of testing and other DNR requirements.

A bill is now in the state Legislature, introduced by several Republican lawmakers. Two of the Republicans backing this bill represent the Green Bay area -- senators Rob Cowles and Eric Wimberger.

“It’s an emerging contaminant, and there’s not a whole lot known about it really, so it’s important to get a good beat on what’s going on to stop any sort of harm that could be ongoing and try to find solutions for people who are having problems,” Sen. Wimberger said.

What we don’t know yet is how much money would go toward this effort if it’s passed. As Sen. Wimberger told us Tuesday, that discussion is likely to happen later this week when the Joint Finance Committee meets.

PFAS chemicals have been found across the state. This includes cities like Marinette and Peshtigo in northeast Wisconsin.

They’re manmade and used for their water- and stain-resistant qualities in products like cookware, packaging, and firefighting foam. Studies have shown the chemicals are linked to cancer.

Those chemicals often contaminate drinking water through the ground.

“If you are known to have a contaminant in your land and it’s migrating from your land to a neighbor’s land which PFAS does, it goes through the water table, then it’s possible the DNR considers you what’s called an emitter,” Sen. Wimberger said.

This proposed bill, according to Republicans, would:

  • Assist local governments in complying with government-required testing and treatment
  • Protect individuals, municipalities, and businesses from government overreach
  • Work to remove PFAS from the state now and in the future
  • Protect municipal utility rate payers
  • Reduce the timeline and cost of testing

Action 2 News reached out to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who previously indicated support for clean water. The governor’s office responded by referring us to his proposed budget, which included $106 million “to combat and address PFAS contamination across the state” with a three-pronged plan: expand PFAS monitoring and testing, invest in cleanup efforts, and defray costs for homeowners and local communities.

“We’re going to increase PFAS testing, sampling and monitoring statewide, so we can find these contaminants and get them out of the water,” Gov. Evers said before releasing his budget plan. “We’re going to make more resources available to on-the-ground partners so they can respond to PFAS contamination when it happens, and we’re going to work to increase awareness about the dangers of PFAS so folks can take steps to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

We also reached out to a number of local Democrats. We’ve yet to hear back as the state senate is in session.

Wimberger said he’s hopeful that this bill will have some bipartisan support.

Communities struggling with the impact of PFAS contaminants, also known as “forever chemicals,” could see some additional funding.