DNR Stakeholder Meeting on PFAS Rules

On March 23, 2020, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held its second stakeholder meeting on rules to set water standards for PFAS chemicals in Wisconsin (agenda). Due to COVID-19 concerns, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom.

First, DNR gave an update on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) process for setting standards for PFAS. EPA is currently considering maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS, the two most-studied PFAS chemicals. According to DNR, it takes EPA three years to set MCLs. Then, it would take an additional three years for DNR to promulgate these MCLs at the state level. DNR cited this six-year timeline as the reason why it is going forward with state standards before EPA acts.

DNR noted that it is using current comments to inform the draft rulemaking process. According to DNR’s timeline, the formal comment period on the rules will take place in 2021. More on the rulemaking process in Wisconsin.

Next on the agenda, DNR and a toxicologist from the Department of Health Services (DHS) overviewed the process the departments use to set groundwater standards according to Wis. Stat. Ch. 160. DHS described the process it used to come up with the 20 parts per trillion (ppt) enforcement standard and 2 ppt preventive action limit for PFOA and PFOS combined. DHS said they chose to issue a combined number for the health recommendations for PFOA and PFOS because the chemicals have similar health effects caused by the same mechanisms and people are likely to be exposed to both chemicals at the same time.

DNR staff then provided updates on next steps for stakeholder meetings. After the March 23 meeting, meetings will be separated by rule (surface water, groundwater, and drinking water).

The Wis. Admin. Code § NR 140 groundwater standards meetings will be further separated by type of compound, as those rules include a variety of chemicals beyond PFAS. DNR anticipates a draft economic impact analysis for groundwater standards later this year and a formal comment period in winter 2021.

DNR also noted there will be at least two to three more meetings on the § NR 809 MCLs for drinking water. DNR is monitoring MCLs from EPA and other states and noted that Michigan is in the process of promulgating a 7 ppt MCL.

In the afternoon session, DNR staff gave details on the surface water quality criteria rulemaking in § NR 105. DNR estimates the proposed surface water quality criteria will be:

  • ≤ 2 ng/L for PFOS (2,000 ppt)
  • 35-45 ng/L for PFOA (35,000-45,000 ppt)

The surface water standards for PFOA and PFOS will not be a combined number, unlike the groundwater and drinking water standards.


Read more about legislation and regulation of PFAS in Wisconsin.