New Opportunities Now Paper: PFAS 2.0
WI Green Fire, December 1, 2023
Since the late 1930s, many consumer goods and industrial materials have contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of chemicals famous for their non-stick and firefighting properties. However, PFAS are now known to threaten human health and the environment. A team of experts at Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) has spent the past five years researching the threat of PFAS contamination in Wisconsin waters and communities.
WGF’s latest findings and recommendations are available in the new Opportunities Now white paper: “PFAS in Wisconsin Drinking Water: A Summary of Current Detections and their Implications for Wisconsin.”
Written for non-experts, this paper gives background on PFAS, where it is found, and estimated costs to address the contamination. The paper offers pro-conservation recommendations using a science-based approach to protect Wisconsin’s drinking water and the people who are affected by PFAS contamination.
Meleesa Johnson, WGF Executive Director, is a co-author of the new publication. She says, “The strength of Wisconsin’s Green Fire is our extensive team of subject matter experts and research scientists. I am extremely proud of not only this team, but also of their dedication to using science to solve the problems of today like PFAS.”
Some of the key findings and recommendations include:
- PFAS contamination in Wisconsin’s water supplies mainly affects areas near specific PFAS sources and mostly comes from “legacy” sources, though the extent of PFAS contamination is not static.
- In affected communities, PFAS in drinking water causes severe and costly environmental and human health impacts, with potentially disproportionate impacts in disadvantaged communities and for vulnerable people and populations.
- Wisconsin’s Green Fire estimates the capital cost for PFAS treatment of public water systems and alternative water supplies is $208 Million. This number may change depending on the findings of additional testing and rising costs from inflation.
- Wisconsin’s drinking water standards will need to be modified as upcoming federal standards will likely be significantly more restrictive than Wisconsin’s current standards. Wisconsin currently has no standard for PFAS in groundwater and therefore no PFAS standard for private well water.
- Like any complex problem, addressing the impacts of PFAS will require investment, coordination, and most of all, cooperation across all sectors including state and federal government, the manufacturing and business community, academia, health care systems, non-governmental organizations, local units of government, and members of the public.
Correction, December 8th, 2023: An earlier version of this report incorrectly titled Map 1 on page 13 as “Wisconsin Water Systems with PFAS Detections.” The correct title for the map is “Wisconsin Water Systems with PFAS Exceedances.”