Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Gov. Evers allocates $402 million in funding to combat PFAS contamination in Wisconsin drinking water

Funding will be used to construct water infrastructure, replace lead pipes to prevent contamination
Allie Serterides
Lake Mendota

Gov. Tony Evers’ Office announced the allocation of more than $402 million to address polluted drinking water in Wisconsin Oct. 23. The funding will be used to build water infrastructures and replace lead pipes to combat contaminations like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl in drinking water, according to a press release.

The funding was made possible in part by the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, according to the press release.

Of the total, $30 million alone will be dedicated to replacing the lead pipes in Milwaukee and $17 million will be used to build a water treatment system in Wausau to reduce PFAS levels. Other cities including Marinette, Green Bay, the town of Campbell on French Island, and Madison are also dealing with PFAS contamination in water, the press release said.


‘When we fight we win’: Workers, community members gather in solidarity with local labor unions

Within the last 10 to 20 years, scientists have begun to recognize the health hazard of PFAS in drinking water, according to University of Wisconsin civil and environmental engineering professor Christy Remucal. Some of the consequences to drinking these contaminants include low birth weight, cancer, liver disease and reducing vaccines’ effectiveness, according to the press release.

“It’s important to remember with PFAS, that we’re talking about thousands of different chemicals,” Remucal said. “Some of them may behave differently and we certainly don’t know the toxicity of all or even most of them, but the ones that we know about can cause a variety of different health outcomes. Thyroid issues, decreased immune response, reproductive issues, and even cancer in some cases of high exposure.”

PFAS refers to 9,000 different synthetic chemicals that are found throughout many daily products, Remucal said. This includes cooking appliances, firefighting foam and stain-resistant clothing, according to the press release.

These chemicals have been used by companies for a long time and some of the first PFAS chemicals that were manufactured can be dated back to the 1950s, according to Remucal.

Gov. Tony Evers launches task force researching role of AI on Wisconsin workforce

PFAS are particularly problematic because they do not break down in nature, according to UW assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience Christopher Zahasky.

There are several different ways PFAS makes its way into drinking water. One of the biggest sources is firefighting foam, according to Zahasky. The aqueous film forming foam is very heavy in PFAS and is used in great quantities to put out large diesel fires. These firefighting training activities are done at airports and at military bases to combat diesel fires, Zahasky said.

For many decades, these activities have continued without containment systems for PFAS. This leaves cities in close proximity to airports and military bases at greater risk of having PFAS in their groundwater, according to Zahasky.

Another prominent source of PFAS contamination is landfill leachate, where leachate refers to rainwater that percolates through the waste while collecting PFAS. It is then captured and transferred to wastewater treatment plants, according to Zahasky. The biosolids from the treatment center become a concentrated source of PFAS, subsequently contaminating the zones from which the biosolids are taken, according to Zahasky.

Evers files lawsuit against Republican legislature, following withholding of UW employee pay raises

While there are many ways contamination occurs, there are measures people can take on the individual level to prevent PFAS contamination, Zahasky said. One preventative measure a person could take to avoid contamination is purchasing clothing that doesn’t have PFAS chemicals in their materials for water repellence. Traces of PFAS can be found in many articles of outdoor clothing which is something people should be aware of, according to Zahasky.

Though contamination sources have been identified, funding is required to find PFAS locations, to test the contaminates and to treat the water, according to Zahasky.

“The issue now is one of resources,” Zahasky said. “We need money to be able to find where the PFAS is, as far as testing. The EPA recently required that all municipal wells systems get tested. So we’re doing a better job of finding the PFAS when it’s in the water but what we still lack are resources to be able to treat it.”

The recent allocation of funding by Evers will enable the improvement of water quality for Wisconsinites and reduce the health issues from PFAS. Continuing to put pressure on state governance to fund solutions to this problem will be important, Zahasky said.

Remucal said the Department of Health has various learning materials on health effects of PFAS consumption. Additionally, the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have have databases that allow users to see where researchers are testing and what the levels of the contaminants are, according to Zahasky.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *