WISCONSIN — Seven sites in Wisconsin are contaminated and five municipalities are testing their drinking water supplies for polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, according to a group of environmental activists.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued drinking water health advisories for “chemicals foreverfound in water supplies across the country, including parts of Badger State. PFAS in drinking water is more dangerous than previously thought, and local utilities should install filters, or at least notify customers, the agency said.
Here are the Wisconsin locations with PFAS contamination sites, according to a map created by the activist organization Environmental Working Group.
- Hayward, where activists suspect the contamination is from fire-fighting foam
- Fort McCoy
- Volk Field, Camp Douglas
- Badger Army Ammunition Plant, Sauk County
- Traux Field, Madison
- General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee
Meanwhile, five other localities — La Crosse Waterworks, Rhinelander Water & Wastewater, West Bend Waterworks, Madison Water Utility and water utilities around Lake Monona — are monitoring their drinking water supplies.
PFAS are known as “eternal chemicals” due to their durability at high temperatures and in water, meaning they remain in the environment for years without breaking down. They’re found in a range of foods and consumer products, and they’ve been linked to infertility, thyroid problems, and several types of cancer.
No state is spared from PFAS contamination, according to a map compiled by the Environmental Working Groupa non-profit organization sometimes criticized for exaggerate certain risks of toxicity. But a growing number of academics and government the research supports claims by the activist group and the EPA that even low levels of these chemicals can cause harm over a person’s lifetime.
EPA advisory “should ring the alarm bells”
The best thing people can do right now is install one of the many commercially available filters, but they have to make sure the filter removes PFAS.
The EPA advisory “should trigger alarm bells for consumers and regulators“Environment Task Force legislative counsel Melanie Benesh told The Washington Post.
“These proposed advisory levels demonstrate that we need to act much faster to significantly reduce exposures to these toxic chemicals,” Benesh said.
A spokesman for Republican state Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) said party members serve on the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee will not oppose the standards proposed by the Natural Resources Council for the regulation of PFAS, the Wisconsin Examiner reported.
“Finalizing these water quality protections is a positive development and a necessary step in protecting the people of Wisconsin from chemicals forever,” Midwest Environmental Advocates Executive Director Tony Wilkin Gibart told Reuters. ‘Associated Press. “While we’re glad to see these rules moving forward, we realize that Wisconsin residents whose water comes from private wells also deserve the same protections under our state’s groundwater law.”
In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources shut down water wells in Marshfield and Adams in late May when the the agency found harmful levels of PFAS.
Chemical industry pushes back and questions federal advisory
PFAS-contaminated communities may be eligible for funding under a billion-dollar grant program included in the Biden administration’s program bipartite infrastructure packageapproved by Congress last year.
American manufacturers have phase out PFOA and PFOS, two compounds found in the group of chemicals forever widely used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent fabrics, and fire-retardant equipment. A few uses remain, and they are ubiquitous in the environment, having accumulated since the 1940s, National Public Radio reported.
Even at levels so low they cannot be detected in drinking water, these compounds pose a health risk, the EPA said in the revised notice. The agency lowered the allowable limits for both compounds, immediately drawing fire from the chemical industry.
The American Chemical Council, which represents PFAS producers such as 3M and Dupont, said Wednesday that the new EPA standards “will have radical implications“on public policy, and “cannot be achieved with existing treatment technology and, in fact, are below levels that can be reliably detected using existing EPA methods.”
Additionally, the industry group questioned the science behind the revised version. Drinking water advisorysaying it should have been delayed until the agency’s own scientific advisory board could review the dramatically reduced toxicity levels that are “3,000 to 17,000 times lower” than those set in 2016.
“Getting the science right is critically important,” the American Chemical Council said in a statement.
Health advocates say the problem cannot be overstated. Forever chemicals have already prompted those responsible for Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan give advice against food certain fish caught in Lake Superior.