Gov. Evers calls for action beyond state task force report
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said on Thursday in Wausau a Water Quality Task Force report released the previous day by state Assembly Speaker Robin Voss, R-Rochester, represents a good start to solve the state’s problem with contaminated drinking water, but it does not go far enough.
Evers held a press conference in the Timber Wolf Conference Center at Northcentral Technical College to lay out his legislative priorities this year. Evers proclaimed 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water” in Wisconsin. He said the Water Quality Task Force formed by Voss would improve the state’s drinking water but there was much more work to be done in the state legislature this year. Evers said findings in the Water Quality Task Force’s report fall short of the state’s goals.
“It doesn’t address (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) PFAs and it doesn’t address lead in pipes, which are two huge issues,” Evers said. “Is it a start in some areas, yes, but people in our state are concerned about PFAs and they should be. I know we don’t know everything about them but we know enough about them that people should be concerned, and lead is obviously an issue, especially for little kids. I have lots of grandchildren and them consuming water that is either PFA or lead contaminated would scare the living hell out of me.” Gov. Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its own report on Wednesday, which is titled, “The Year of Clean Drinking Water.”
PFAs are a large group of humanmade chemicals that have been used in many consumer and commercial products, according to Gov. Evers and the DNR’s report. PFAS are used nonstick cookware, water repellant clothing, and stain resistant products such as Teflon, Scotchguard or GORETEX and some firefighting foam. Because PFAs don’t break down easily in the environment, and some PFAS can stay in the body for a long time, they are referred to as “forever chemicals.”
Testing by the DNR, communities and federal agencies has detected PFAS in groundwater and surface water at several sites throughout Wisconsin. Nitrates and other contamination in private wells and lead service lines to homes also put the state’s water supplies at risk, according to Gov. Evers’ report.
Gov. Evers, who is a former teacher, thought it was appropriate he assigned the state legislature some homework to complete in legislative sessions this spring. He wants the state legislature to pass bills that have bipartisan support by both Democrat and Republican parties.
“Obviously, we need to work on cleaning up PFA contamination and we have a great bill already out there called the “CLEAR Act” that Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) has provided for us,” Evers said.
The CLEAR Act (Chemical Level Enforcement and Remediation Act) directs the DNR to establish acceptable levels and standards, monitoring requirements and response actions for PFAS chemicals that are determined by the Department of Health Services to be harmful to human health for drinking water, groundwater, surface water, air, solid waste, beds of navigable waters and soil and sediment.