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Wisconsin governor lashes out at conservatives over PFAS standards, “French Island is just sitting there” questioning how long they’ll be on bottled water, Evers said

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FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks with reporters at an event in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers lashed out Thursday at conservative members of the Department of Natural Resources policy board for refusing to set limits on a group of chemicals known as PFAS in Wisconsin’s groundwater.

The board in February adopted limits for drinking water and surface water but rejected the Department of Natural Resources’ recommendations to impose a 20 parts per trillion limit for groundwater after conservative board members voiced concerns about the cost of replacing or remediating wells with contamination that exceeds that bench mark.

Evers told the audience at a Wispolitics.com luncheon in Madison that the “wrong people” are on the board and the panel should have been able to adopt groundwater limits more quickly and transparently. Under Wisconsin’s regulation-making statutes, it could be three more years before the DNR brings groundwater restrictions to the board again.

“The longer we wait to set standards, the more it’s going to cost and more people are going to be harmed health-wise,” the governor said. “That’s not an anti-business piece of advice. It’s just the truth … it could take three more years, at minimum, to create standards for PFAS while French Island is sitting there saying, ‘How long do I have to drink Culligan’s water?’ It’s just not right.”

Town of Campbell residents on French Island have been on bottled water for over a year. The DNR had no timetable a few months ago for how long that would last but it’s costing the state between $500,000-$600,000 a year for water.

Campbell Town Chair Joshua Johnson was recently on La Crosse Talk PM discussing their dilemma. He was also unhappy with the DNR’s decision on the groundwater standards.

“Many of our residents are drinking bottled water because their wells have been testing at 20 ppt or higher, and now the DNR Policy Board is setting limits at over three times what the Wisconsin DHS has deemed safe,” Johnson told WIZM last month. “It is especially disheartening that the main reason for not implementing a 20 ppt standard appears to be that it would cost too much.

PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were developed as coatings to protect consumer goods from stains, water and corrosion. They are in a variety of products from cookware to firefighting foam. The chemicals don’t breakdown in nature; research suggests they can cause liver problems, lower birth weights and increased risk of high blood pressure and cancer.

A number of Wisconsin municipalities have been grappling with PFAS in their drinking water, including Madison, Marinette, the town of Campbell on French Island just outside La Crosse, Peshtigo and Wausau.

The DNR policy board’s chairman, Greg Kazmierski, said the department’s recommendation for groundwater limits included a host of other compounds besides PFAS. He said that was an “overreach” and if the proposal had been limited to PFAS the restrictions would have been adopted.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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