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As I See It

Wisconsin no closer to addressing PFAS problem



Few issues have been as hotly contested in Wisconsin in recent years as PFAS chemicals and what to do about them. PFAS are known as forever chemicals because of their inability to break down, leading to numerous health problems. It has been an issue for three years on French Island, where people have not been able to drink the water from their private wells due to PFAS. The state Legislature one year ago approved $125 million to help battle the PFAS problem. But those same lawmakers never approved a plan for how to actually spend the money, so it has sat in a trust fund, far from the people in French Island and Marinette and every corner of the state who need clean water. Finally, lawmakers have sent their spending plan to the Governor, who is likely to veto it. As he should. This plan lets the polluters off the hook. As written, it would limit the DNR’s ability to order those who caused the pollution to clean it up. That’s not fair. And it is not how other hazardous substances are treated in state law. It is sad that it took this long for lawmakers to come up with a plan, only to come up with one so flawed that it will likely face the veto pen. And the result is that people on French Island are still waiting for their government to make sure  they have drinkable water.

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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  1. nick

    April 5, 2024 at 6:47 am

    I have been steadfast in my criticism of the Republican Party in not properly addressing this problem. I have repeatedly said it is immoral.
    I went as far as writing the state party telling them exactly the same thing.

  2. walden

    April 5, 2024 at 9:42 am

    The disagreement at the state level is over a plan to come up with a plan for remediation of the pollution. My understanding is that it does nothing to actually clean up the groundwater, if that is even possible, it will likely take decades and $125 million will be a rounding error in the total cost.

    We know where the contamination came from; the La Crosse Airport, which is owned by the City. If you want to hold landowners accountable, start with the City of La Crosse. We have heard crickets from the City and its insurers. What are they doing to give these residents relief?

    Lastly, the Wisconsin DNR was asleep at the wheel on PFAS matters for decades, while spending tens of millions of $ on duplicative climate change studies with no value. So thinking that giving them additional enforcement and monitoring authority is going to be some sort of game changer is a fools errand. Again, we know where the PFAS came from. Marinette (the other example given) also knows the source of their PFAS pollution. We don’t need our governor to stand in the way of getting these studies underway. They can argue about “holding landowners accountable” at a later date.

  3. Roy

    April 5, 2024 at 10:52 am

    I wish it all worked as you have listed, Scott. Giving the DNR a blank check to issue cleanup orders regardless of who is responsible could be catastrophic not only for innocent homeowners like those on French Island, but for the thousands who own second homes up north and are not on the premises all year. It could also crash the real estate market in certain areas. Do you want the DNR pounding on doors on French Island homes with a tin badge demanding you clean up the pollution on your land in 60 days, no matter what the cost?

    The DNR would love to have every residence on a municipal water and sewer system no matter where it’s located. Their interest is extremely myopic on these matters with little regard to economic impact or individual rights.

    The monies to solve this problem have already been appropriated in a timely manner by the Republican legislature with language to protect homeowners from regulatory abuse by the DNR. The lawmakers will not give Tony Evers a blank check to spend as he wishes. That’s just responsible government. Let Evers veto it. He seems to like vetoing everything that the people’s elected reps come up with. Currently in Wisconsin, the only laws that get passed come from Tony Evers’ brain. Many of us don’t think like he does.

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