PFAS Update: DNR Pauses PFAS Groundwater Rulemaking

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced a pause of its rulemaking to establish groundwater standards for several PFAS compounds. This is due to the requirements of Wisconsin’s REINS Act, a 2017 law that requires legislative authorization of any administrative rule with a compliance and implementation cost totaling at least $10 million over a two-year period.

After receiving many comments from stakeholder groups, the department’s revised economic impact analysis found that its draft PFAS rule would cost $33.3 million for businesses, individuals, and local units of government to comply with in the first two years. The conservation group Wisconsin’s Green Fire has estimated that the capital cost of treating PFAS in public water systems and other sources of water in the state would be $208 million.

Under the REINS Act, this rulemaking cannot move forward until the Legislature passes a bill to approve the requirements, or DNR redrafts the rule to reduce the estimated compliance and implementation costs. It is likely that this delay will push the effective date of the rule into 2025 or later.

As we reported previously, DNR is proposing new groundwater quality standards for several PFAS compounds; state groundwater standards are contained in Chapter NR 140 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. DNR is proposing the following enforcement standards for four PFAS compounds, based on the “Cycle 10” recommendations from the Department of Health Services:

  • PFOA and PFOS combined: 20 parts per trillion (ppt)
  • PFBS: 450 parts per billion
  • HFPO-DA: 300 ppt

For reference, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed drinking water regulations for PFAS including a 4 ppt enforcement level for PFOA and PFOS individually and including HFPO-DA and PFBS in a combined standard for a group of several PFAS.