DNR Board Approves, Modifies, Rejects PFAS Rules

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) recently voted on three proposed rules affecting PFAS. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) developed three proposals to regulate the allowable levels of certain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and other compounds in surface water (NR 105), groundwater (NR 140), and drinking water (NR 809). DNR presented the rules at NRB’s public meeting on February 23; we previewed the board’s consideration of the rules here. NRB consists of members of the public appointed by the governor to oversee DNR and environmental policy in Wisconsin.

NRB took the following actions on each proposed rule:

  • NR 140 Groundwater Quality Standards (Cycle 10)
    • The motion to adopt DNR’s proposed rule failed to pass NRB by a vote of 3-3-1.
    • This rulemaking expires in March, meaning DNR will have to give up on the rule or start over.
    • Links: Rule and Economic Impact Analysis
  • NR 809 Drinking Water Standards (Cycle 10)
    • NRB approved an amendment to raise the rule’s maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS from 20 parts per trillion (ppt) to 70 ppt, by a vote of 4-3.
    • NRB adopted the rule as amended by a vote of 6-1.
    • Links: Rule and Economic Impact Analysis

The surface water and drinking water rules approved by NRB will now head to Gov. Tony Evers (D) for his approval, and then to the Legislature for review, first by the appropriate standing committees and then by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR). The Legislature may adjourn before the review period ends; in that case, the rule review period will not progress until the Legislature reconvenes, most likely in January 2023.

In addition to three rules discussed above, DNR is currently developing initial drafts of drinking and groundwater standards using substances identified by the Department of Health Services in Cycle 11. Those standards will include several PFAS compounds.

For more information about PFAS in Wisconsin, visit the links below:

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a family of thousands of manufactured chemicals that are found in many everyday items, including nonstick cookware, food packaging, cleaning products, paints, and firefighting foam. PFAS are present in the bloodstream of 98 percent of Americans. Competing studies debate whether PFAS have negative health effects and, if they do, at what levels they are harmful.