DHS Issues New Recommendations to DNR for WI Groundwater Standards

State health officials issue recommendation to add 22 substances to WI groundwater quality standards

Today, the state announced it is moving ahead to recommend new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and certain pesticides be added to the list of groundwater standards for which the Department of Natural Resources will undertake rulemaking.

In response to recommendations put forth on November 6, 2020 by the Department of Health Services (DHS), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be requesting authority to include an additional 22 contaminants, including 16 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 6 pesticides, to Wisconsin’s groundwater quality standards. This will be undertaken through a rulemaking process.

PFAS are a priority contaminant as laid out by Governor Evers in Executive Order #40.  These chemicals are primarily found in temperature-resistant and water- and oil-repellent products, including nonstick cookware, food packaging, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant textiles and fluorinated firefighting foam. They do not break down in the environment and have been discovered at concentrations of concern in groundwater, surface water and drinking water. They are known to accumulate in the human body and and certain PFAS may pose or pose a number of risks to human health.

More than two-thirds of Wisconsin residents drink water from public or private wells that draw groundwater. Groundwater quality standards regulate the discharge of contaminants into groundwater. All state agencies and programs implement these standards to inform consistent regulatory decisions regarding facility design, contamination clean-up, public health recommendations and more.

In Spring of 2019, DNR sent DHS a list of compounds, including 34 PFAS, and asked that they be reviewed by DHS toxicologists for health risks. After rigorous technical and scientific review, DHS offered recommendations for 22 of these compounds.

This is the 11th cycle of revisions to Ch. NR 140. State law will require DNR to complete the entire rulemaking process within 30 months. Public participation is a critical component of agency rulemaking processes. The DNR will offer several opportunities for public input, including at least two separate public hearings. More information is available under the Cycle 11 tab on the DNR NR 140 groundwater quality standards webpage: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Groundwater/NR140.html.