Wisconsin’s Green Fire and Partners Equip Local Leaders to Address PFAS in Wisconsin Communities
WI Green Fire, May 5, 2023
When Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg had to deal with the crisis of responding to PFAS contamination detected throughout Wausau’s drinking water supply in 2022, she was fortunate to be able to turn to her family friend and mentor John Robinson. John is a former Wausau Mayor and a former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) engineer, and he currently co-chairs the WGF Contaminants of Emerging Concern Work Group.
Together with co-chair Mark Thimke, WGF members Meleesa Johnson and RT Krueger, and WGF Policy Director Paul Heinen, the Wisconsin’s Green Fire Contaminants of Emerging Concern team leveraged their knowledge by organizing Wisconsin’s first statewide conference on PFAS.
On May 2nd, 2023, the PFAS in Wisconsin: Policy and Practice for Local Government Leaders conference hosted by Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, the Wisconsin Towns Association, the Wisconsin Counties Solid Waste Management Association, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, and Wisconsin Counties Association. The collaborative workshop prepared local leaders to understand, respond, and act to protect their communities from the risks of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, or the “forever chemicals.”
WGF Executive Director Fred Clark opened the conference welcoming WDNR Secretary Adam Payne and his staff, local mayors and county board members, and other local officials from across Wisconsin. Participants were eager to gain understanding and new tools to address the statewide threat that PFAS poses to drinking water supplies and the health of Wisconsin communities.
WDNR staff shared their efforts in addressing PFAS in the state, including establishing the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC), a statewide PFAS Action Plan, and spoke about potential federal funding for statewide cleanup efforts. The WDNR also announced its Wisconsin’s Community Response to PFAS in Drinking Water toolkit for local leaders, developed in partnership with the Department of Health Services and Wisconsin Emergency Management.
Speakers then discussed the first steps in responding to PFAS pollution, and further explained the source of PFAS and why they pose such a threat to public and environmental health. Local officials like Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg discussed specific steps they are taking to address PFAS in their community.
Throughout the event, many participants vocalized their appreciation for the conference as a place to share ideas and learn from others’ experiences.
WGF’s Contaminants of Emerging Concern Work Group will continue this work to address PFAS and other emerging environmental contaminants, working to equip communities with tools to address the issue and assist the WDNR and other state agencies to develop effective solutions.