PFAS Update: Natural Resources Board Approves Hearing, Comment Period for PFAS Drinking Water Rule

At its May 26 meeting, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) authorized the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a preliminary public hearing and comment period on the agency’s scope statement for board order DG-31-20. The scope statement is an early version of the agency’s proposal to amend chapter NR 809 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, which regulates drinking water, to add enforcement standards for several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and pesticides.

DNR is seeking to write a rule establishing drinking water standards (referred to as maximum contaminant levels or MCLs) for 12 PFAS and combined standards for 4 PFAS. The Legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) requested that DNR seek hearing and comment on its scope statement. After the hearing and comment period, the NRB must approve DNR’s scope statement before the agency can begin drafting the content of its proposed rule.

Governor Tony Evers (D) approved that scope statement in March, along with a scope statement proposing groundwater regulations for the same 12 PFAS; we covered both of those items here. DNR is seeking to codify standards developed by the Department of Health Services (DHS) in its Cycle 11 Recommended Groundwater Standards released late last year. These two scope statements are the latest in a series of PFAS-related rules that DNR is developing.

As we noted in a recent update, DNR is also developing rules to regulate 27 substances identified in DHS’ Cycle 10 study, including 2 PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). On May 14, DNR released a draft economic impact analysis (EIA) for a proposed rule affecting all regulated facilities that may impact groundwater. Members of the public can submit comments on the agency’s draft EIA from now until June 13.

The Legislature is also considering legislation related to PFAS. A bill to expand the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s clean sweep program to include the collection and disposal of firefighting foam containing PFAS has been approved by committees in both houses of the Legislature. The Assembly version, AB 140, was approved unanimously on May 6. The Senate version, SB 156, was approved unanimously in early April. Neither version of the bill has been scheduled for a floor vote yet.

As we noted here, a group of Democratic state legislators backed by Gov. Evers are reintroducing legislation called the Chemical Level Enforcement and Remediation or “CLEAR” Act. The bill includes a variety of provisions to regulate PFAS. The bill was previously introduced and died during the 2019-20 session; it was opposed by a broad coalition of industry groups. Some policies from the CLEAR Act were also included in Gov. Evers’ 2021-2023 executive budget but have since been removed by the Legislature’s finance committee.

PFAS contamination and regulations are also the subject of several ongoing lawsuits, which we last covered here.

Check out Hamilton’s PFAS issue page for more information about this complex policy issue.