Republican bill funnels money to test and clean up PFAS in Wisconsin, limits DNR ability to intervene
State lawmakers are continuing to try to figure out how to address PFAS contamination. PFAS is the name given to a host of what are described as forever chemicals that bioaccumulate in living things — including humans.
They’ve been used to make everything from frying pans to fire fighting foam.
On Monday, a state Senate committee discussed a complex bill that takes a whack at the problem. Lawmakers took more than three hours of testimony.
One element seemed universally supported among those who spoke — the Legislature’s Joint Finance committee’s proposed $125 million trust fund to tackle PFAS.
The bill would provide a mechanism to distribute the money.
Rep. Jeff Mursau of Crivitz, one of the Republican authors, laid out a few of the bill’s elements.
“Important pieces of this legislation include creating community grants program to assist small governments to comply with required testing and treatment, protects municipal ratepayers from excessive increases and reduces the timeline and cost of testing,” Mursau says.
Wausau is among a growing number of communities grappling with PFAS — all six of its municipal wells have been contaminated.
Wausau mayor Kate Rosenberg applauded the bill’s municipal grant provision and another provision that calls for more PFAS research.
But Rosenberg spoke out against another part of the bill. It would limit the DNR’s ability to step in, including requiring PFAS testing.
“The DNR has been a vital partner for our city during this situation, and they will be crucial as we continue to work on identifying a responsible party. It will be important for the City of Wausau and similarly situated municipalities to access the funds to remediate PFAS. We need them to have the staffing to effectively run that program and get the money out the door as quickly as possible,” Rosenberg says.
Gov Evers’ budget had proposed eleven new DNR positions specifically to handle PFAS.
During Monday’s hearing, DNR environment management division administrator Jill Zellmer told the committee, “In order to implement the provisions of THIS bill, we would need an even greater investment from the legislature.”
Zellmer thanked the bill authors in advance for agreeing to meet with his team to discuss staffing and “other opportunities to improve the bill.”
That meeting between legislators and the DNR environment management division is slated to happen Tuesday.