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Court ruling adds urgency to PFAS pollution problem



A setback for Wisconsin’s environment. A judge ruled this week that the Department of Natural Resources lacks the authority to regulate harmful chemicals such as PFAS in our groundwater. Until now, when hazardous chemicals were discharged on a property, the DNR ordered the owners to clean up the chemicals. But the judge ruled the DNR didn’t have the authority to do so because the agency failed to adopt formal rules for what chemicals are dangerous and what limits of them can be allowed. Where does that leave us? Ask the people of French Island, where residents have been relying on bottled water after PFAS chemicals were found in their well water. It appears they will be unable to drink their water for some time because our lawmakers have yet to approve allowable standards of PFAS and other chemicals. Our lawmakers should rush back to Madison and pass a bill to define what is and isn’t allowed. But they aren’t scheduled to meet again until 2023. There should be more urgency to solving this problem. These PFAS are cancer-causing chemicals and can lead to serious health risks. But our lawmakers continue to drag their feet. And even if they were to adopt standards, such rule making takes time, often years, and then must be signed off on by the Legislature. And that is certainly no guarantee given the gridlock in Madison. Our health is at risk, but our lawmakers continue to simply twiddle their thumbs rather than address the issue with the urgency it deserves.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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