PFAS Update: DNR Board Votes on Scope Statements, Agency Water Recommendations

Proposed regulations of PFAS compounds are continuing to move through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Meanwhile, other agencies have made recommendations to the governor on these PFAS chemicals and other clean water issues.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are manufactured chemicals found in many everyday products, including nonstick pans, cleaning products, paints, and firefighting foam.


DNR Board Votes on Scope Statements

On Oct. 23, the DNR Board voted to approve a preliminary public hearing and comment period on three scope statements proposing to regulate PFAS chemicals. The hearing on all three scope statements will occur on Nov. 12, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. Written comments are due Nov. 19.

Gov. Tony Evers had approved the scope statements in August. The scope statements would:

  1. Adopt groundwater standards. (SS 090-19). Under this scope statement, DNR would promulgate the Department of Health Services’s (DHS) recommended standards of 20 ppt combined for PFOA and PFOS and a 2 ppt preventive action limit. This rule would apply to all regulated facilities that may impact groundwater.
  2. Adopt surface water quality standards for PFAS. (SS 091-19). Under the scope statement, DNR could also change Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit implementation procedures related to PFAS chemicals, including additional monitoring and new effluent limitations. Currently, DNR can address PFAS discharges in WPDES permits on a case-by-case basis. The proposed rule would set a uniform standard and procedures.
  3. Adopt maximum contaminant levels(MCLs) for drinking water. (SS 089-19). MCLs for drinking water would mostly affect municipal water systems.

Co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules Sen. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) requested DNR hold the preliminary public hearing and comment period on each of the scope statements, pursuant to JCRAR’s authority under Wisconsin’s rulemaking statutes (Wis. Stat. Ch. 227). The JCRAR co-chairs’ authority to request preliminary public input was established in the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act passed in 2017.

With the DNR Board’s approval, the agency is now authorized to hold the preliminary public hearing and comment period on the scope statements. After the comment period, the DNR Board can approve the scope statements. DNR plans to ask the board for approval in January 2020. Once the board approves the scope statements, DNR can begin work on drafting the rules and economic impact analyses.


Agency Water Recommendations

On Oct. 15, DNR, DHS and the Department of Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) submitted to Gov. Evers a set of recommendations based on the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality public hearings. The recommendations included suggestions on how the state should address PFAS. Gov. Evers endorsed the agencies’ recommendations on Oct. 18.



At the Madison meeting of the task force in March, DNR recommended research staff and funding to identify PFAS contamination and establish cleanup standards. Some funding was provided in the 2019-21 state budget, which was signed into law in July.

DNR’s additional recommendations include

  • Legislative action on:
    • Establishing regulatory standards for PFAS in air, land and water.
    • Regulations on safe management of biosolids and soil.
    • Prohibiting PFAS in fire-fighting foams and cleanup of existing PFAS-containing foams.
    • Requiring product labeling for products containing PFAS.
  • Additional funding for:
    • Regulatory staff.
    • Sampling of public water, private well, industry, and publicly owned treatment works facilities.
    • Increased lab capacity at the State Laboratory of Hygiene.
    • Identifying sources.
    • Community engagement.
    • Further research.



DATCP’s recommendations echoed DNR’s call for legislative action on labeling for products containing PFAS and DNR’s request for funding for technical support and community engagement.

DATCP also recommended support for groundwater standards for compounds in Cycle 10 and Cycle 11, which include several PFAS compounds in addition to PFOA and PFOS. These “cycles” are lists of chemicals that DNR asks DHS to evaluate and recommend health standards. Then, the DHS recommendations go through the rulemaking process at DNR. Scope Statement 090-19, setting standards for PFOA and PFOS (discussed above), is part of the Cycle 10 process.



DHS recommended increased staff to develop groundwater recommendations for emerging contaminants, like the PFOA and PFOS recommendations, more efficiently. Like DNR and DATCP, DHS recommends more staff and funding for technical support and community outreach on groundwater issues. DHS also recommended

  • Increased laboratory capacity at the State Laboratory of Hygiene to ensure prompt response to “urgent situations” like PFAS.
  • Research funding for the Groundwater Coordinating Council.
  • Implementation of a state water quality monitoring strategy for emerging contaminants.


Read more about PFAS regulation in Wisconsin.