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Evers plays politics with water regulations

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 19, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — If Gov. Tony Evers and his environmental extremist team have their way, Wisconsin could have some of the most stringent drinking water standards on so-called PFAS chemicals in the world — at a potentially devastating and unnecessary cost to businesses, critics say.

PFAS — or Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances — are among some 4,000-plus human-made chemicals that have been in use since the the 1940s.

Alarming declarations on PFAS contamination, particularly in groundwater, is the latest rage by raging environmentalists, although only a small number of the chemicals have undergone anything nearing a thorough scientific analysis.

In the PFAS family of chemicals, PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) and PFOA  (Perfluorooctanoic acid) — used in the production of carpets, clothing, cookware and more — have been linked to various health problems in lab animals.

The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, set advisory PFOS and PFOA limits at 70 parts per trillion. Other states and countries have established more stringent levels, but none would compare to what the Evers administration has laid out.

The state Department of Health Services in July came out with standards limiting drinking water exposure at 20 parts per trillion combined (PFOS and PFOA) with “preventive action” at 2 parts per trillion.

That means a farmer, property owner, business would be mandated to notify the state Department of Natural Resources upon hitting the minuscule 2 ppt threshold. DNR could ultimately order shutting down the farm or the business, or it could demand costly fixes. In many cases, a business or property owner may merely be an unwitting recipient of the chemicals through water flow.

“One of the really important questions for legislators as these DNR rules move forward is, why are they (DNR) so much smarter than the rest of the world,” said Scott Manley, senior vice president of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. WMC has urged caution in the Evers administration’s blanket approach to PFAS regulation.

Manley notes that the European Union’s drinking water standard on PFAS is 100 parts per trillion individually (for PFOS and PFOA). In Canada, not known for being environmentally lax, the PFOA standard is 200 parts per trillion, and 600 for PFOS.

In May, Kimberly Wise White, a toxicologist for the American Chemistry Council, testified at a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing. While White said mitigating the risk of PFAS is critical, the overly-broad approaches to regulation would undercut the effort.

“Circumventing rulemaking by developing legislation that directs or requires an agency to bypass its own procedures undermines the very system Congress helped design to ensure an independent and transparent regulatory process,” she said. 

White noted a “one-size-fits-all approach” to evaluating PFAS is not scientifically justified. That appears to be precisely what the Evers administration is doing.

“I would argue that what’s driving DNR rules is not sound science, it’s politics and fear and wanting to essentially make the radical environmental groups that supported Gov. Evers’ election happy,” Manley said.

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4 thoughts on “Evers plays politics with water regulations

  • Wisconsin has never been very tolerant of chemical toxins and has a history of containing, prosecuting, and mitigating impacts from sulfides in paper making, DDT and benzene in gasoline underground storage tanks when the environment and the health of Wisconsin residents are threatened. I pray that the tradition of holding industrial polluters responsible continues.
    Due to research done by Fernanda Vielgas and Martin Wattenburg (found on the NOAA website https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/glcfs/currents/) demonstrates that the flow of currents in Lake Michigan is primarily southwest. Seasonal changes include a counter clockwise rotation throughout Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay.
    Additional research done by Gerald s. Miller and James H. Saylor (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0380133085717492) confirms a counter clock wise current in Green Bay. In short, waters that flow from the Menominee and Peshtigo Rivers continue through Oconto County, down to Green Bay and back up the eastern shoreline. This is continuous loop that continues to distribute the referenced toxins and pollutants.
    Now that PFOS and related chemicals have been identified in the Town of Brazeau, Oconto County, and if the pattern in Marinette County is repeated, it is also likely that ground water is contaminated in Oconto County. Ground water in the Town of Brazeau is carried by ditches, streams and rivers into the Oconto River which runs over 100 miles in Oconto County before it reaches the City of Oconto and the bay of Green Bay. I fish these waters, swim these waters and my dogs drink this water. Why don’t we know what risks are now present? Johnson Controls and any other sources of these contaminants need to step up and be responsible.
    An article by Lee Bergquist that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 12, 2018 states that the EPA health advisory for drinking water is 79 parts per trillion yet water tested in nearby ditches and streams that flow into the Bay test from 1,700 up to 3,800 parts per trillion. The real impact on fish and wildlife is yet unknown and immediate testing needs to be done. Tyco represented in a recent newsletter to residents that testing of fish in nearby ponds would commence but no results have been posted.
    Aside from these toxins threatening resident and agricultural health, another of my concerns is the impact that this contamination will have on Tourism income to communities and close to 5,000 tourism related jobs in the two counties. According to the Wi Department of Tourism Marinette County had tourism related expenditures in 2018 of $159 million dollars and Oconto County experienced nearly $90 million dollars, also in 2018. When the WI DNR posted health advisories on eating fish from Green Bay tourism income dropped below $26 million in Oconto County in 1997. Agriculture and Tourism are leading economic engines in the State of Wisconsin. We can ill afford to allow these contaminants to shut down the life blood of our economy.

  • I would love to see him recalled as well. Why can’t we start that initiative at the end of January? Let’s do it! He’s an empty suit who will destroy all the hard work Governor Walker did. We can’t afford that!

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