The Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality is continuing to meet around the state to hear testimony from stakeholders and hold public hearings. Recent task force meetings have been held in Sturtevant, Tomahawk and Stevens Point.
On July 11, the task force traveled to southeastern Wisconsin to hear about wastewater and cleanup programs. First, the committee took a tour of the Burlington Wastewater Treatment Facility. Then, the committee heard testimony from:
- UW School of Freshwater Sciences personnel who discussed the Freshwater Collaborative Project working to develop a water industry workforce training program across the state’s university system.
- An industry representative who explained the Agricultural Chemical Cleanup Program in the Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection. The program reimburses farmers for voluntary cleanup of chemicals.
- Municipal Environmental Group (MEG) – Wastewater Division and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which discussed challenges in the wastewater treatment industry.
- The Alliance for Water Stewardship and the Water Council, groups who support entrepreneurs in water technology to solve global water challengers. Wisconsin partners include MillerCoors, Clear Water Farms, Fund for Lake Michigan, and the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences.
- Racine County conservationists, who discussed their initiatives to address water quality.
On July 23, the task force met for a public hearing in Tomahawk after taking a virtual tour of the PCA Tomahawk Water Treatment System. At the Tomahawk meeting, the committee heard testimony from:
- Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, who discussed key issues including groundwater quantity and high capacity wells. The association has formed its own water task force to address responsible water use practices in agriculture. The association asked the task force to support funding for Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and UW groundwater research projects.
- National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. The council discussed PFAS chemicals and warned the task force that regulating diverse types of PFAS chemicals as a single class is not scientifically defensible.
- Wisconsin Paper Council (WPC), who discussed difficulties industry faces in complying with water regulations. WPC expressed concerns with transparency in the DNR and Department of Health Services (DHS) groundwater standards setting process, specifically regarding PFAS. WPC is part of the Water Quality Coalition that recently sent comments to DHS on the proposed standards to PFOA and PFOS.
- Lincoln County conservationists, who discussed water resources in the area, nitrate in private wells, private onsite waste treatment systems, and their own water conservation efforts related to agriculture and stormwater erosion.
- Short Lane Ag Supply discussed ways to protect groundwater and maintain soil nutrients in farming.
On July 24, the task force met in Stevens Point for a tour of the UW-Stevens Point Water and Environmental Analysis Lab before holding a public hearing. The July 24 testimony included:
- Portage County environmental specialists. Portage County’s water quality concerns included pollution from herbicides and pesticides, nitrates, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and radon.
- USDA Agricultural Research Service. The USDA representative discussed the link between exposure to septic systems and infectious disease, agricultural activities’ nitrate contamination, and private well contamination. Recommendations included establishing robust groundwater monitoring and funding.
- Water Well Association.
- Central Sands Water Action Coalition.
- Farmers of Mill Creek Producer Led Group and Wood County Land Conservation.
The task force plans to meet for more public hearings across the state before presenting legislative recommendations in the fall. Previous meetings: