Fruit and Vegetable Gardens and PFAS: DHS Updates Recommendations for PFAS in Water Used for Gardening in Marinette, Peshtigo and Surrounding Communities

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has issued updated recommendations regarding the use of water contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for fruit and vegetable gardening in the city of Marinette, Town of Peshtigo and surrounding communities affected by PFAS contamination.

The updated recommendations take into consideration DHS’s recent Cycle 10 and Cycle 11 groundwater standard recommendations for PFAS.

In 2018, DHS recommended that non-potable private wells with PFOA and PFOS levels at or above the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water health advisory of 70 parts per trillion should not be used for fruit and vegetable gardening.

Based on recommendations for health-based groundwater standards issued in Cycle 10 and Cycle 11, DHS advises that sources of water with PFAS levels at or above DHS recommended groundwater standards should not be used for watering fruit and vegetable gardens.

Additional information on PFAS contamination in Marinette, Peshtigo, and surrounding communities is available on the DNR’s PFAS Contamination in the Marinette and Peshtigo Area website. Frequently asked questions have also been updated to reflect DHS’s recommendation regarding water and gardening.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These contaminants have made their way into the environment through accidental spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants and certain types of firefighting foams.

PFAS do not break down easily in the environment and have been discovered at concentrations of concern in groundwater, surface water and drinking water. These chemicals are known to bioaccumulate in the tissues of fish and wildlife and are also known to accumulate in the human body, posing several risks to human health.

Addressing PFAS contamination in the environment is part of Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide initiative to ensure Wisconsinites have access to safe drinking water. In 2019, the governor signed Executive Order #40 to address the issue of PFAS across the state.

The governor’s 2021-23 biennial budget unveiled in February proposes significant resources for the monitoring and testing of PFAS including over $20 million over the next two years for assistance and resources to local communities that are impacted by PFAS contamination, aiding local fire departments in disposing of PFAS foam, and adding additional DNR staff to implement the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council's action plan.

The DNR has undertaken several measures to mitigate PFAS contamination, including establishing the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) in 2020 and spearheading the creation of the statewide PFAS Action Plan. The plan includes 25 action items centered around four guiding principles: environmental justice, health equity, innovation, and pollution prevention.

Additional information on PFAS is also available on the Wisconsin DNR website.