As the EPA pursues PFAS standards, industry and residents are at odds over state regulation

By Danielle Kaeding | Wisconsin Public Radio | October 26, 2021

Read the full article by Danielle Kaeding (Wisconsin Public Radio)

"Wisconsin residents affected by PFAS contamination say the Biden administration’s recently announced strategy to address harmful forever chemicals doesn’t go far enough and highlights the need for state standards. But industry officials argue state regulators should wait for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set federal drinking water regulations.

The EPA announced a broad plan last week to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been found in products like non-stick cookware, firefighting foams and food packaging. The chemicals don’t break down easily in the environment and have been linked to serious health conditions, including kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and fertility issues.

The EPA’s plan would set federal drinking water standards in the next two years for two of the most widely studied PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. The strategy also seeks to prevent PFAS releases into the environment and speed along clean up and disposal of the chemicals at military and industrial sites.

"What it will all come down to for states and for communities like ours are tangible action," said Kayla Furton, supervisor for the Town of Peshtigo.

Furton, who is a mother of three, is among many residents that have been affected by PFAS contamination stemming from Tyco Fire Products’ fire training facility in Marinette. While she feels federal action is long overdue, Furton said it’s a step in the right direction that underscores the need for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to set standards for PFAS.

"Not only do I think that the DNR needs to continue in the rulemaking process (to set standards), but Wisconsin needs to enact meaningful actual legislation pertaining to PFAS," said Furton."