Water Quality Task Force Releases Recommendations

This month, the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality released their bipartisan report and recommendations after holding public hearings throughout the state over the summer. The report proposes 13 new bills related to water quality and endorses several others already introduced in the Legislature.

The Task Force has introduced the following bills, many of which will have public hearings this week:

  • SB 708/AB 794, provides transparency in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Health Services process of setting groundwater standards.
    Authors: Reps. Felzkowski, Krug, Summerfield, Novak, Kitchens, Kurtz. Sen. Jacque
    Assembly Government Accountability & Oversight public hearing Jan. 29.
  • SB 709/AB 799, creates an Office of Water Policy attached to the University of Wisconsin System and housed within the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey.
    Authors: Reps. Kurtz, Pope, Summerfield, Novak, Shankland, Hebl, Kitchens & Felzkowski. Sens. Jacque & Miller
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 30. Assembly Government Accountability & Oversight public hearing Jan. 29.
  • SB 710/AB 791, delays the elimination of a grant program for private on-site wastewater treatment systems until 2023.
    Authors: Reps. Krug, Kurtz, Summerfield, Todd Novak, Shankland, Pope, Hebl, Kitchens & Felzkowski. Sens. Jacque & Testin
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 30.
  • SB 711/AB 793, makes changes to the municipal flood control and riparian restoration grant program in DNR.
    Authors: Reps. Brooks, Krug, Summerfield, Novak, Kitchens, Felzkowski & Kurtz. Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 30.
  • SB 712/AB 801, funds a freshwater collaborative among UW System institutions.
    Authors: Reps. Novak, Shankland, Tranel, Krug, Summerfield, Kurtz, Pope, Hebl, Kitchens & Felzkowski. Sens. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) & Cowles
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 29.
  • SB 715/AB 795, provides grants to farmers for various water stewardship initiatives in DATCP.
    Authors: Reps. Tranel, Kurtz, Krug, Summerfield, Novak, Kitchens, Felzkowski, Shankland, Pope & Hebl. Sens. Cowles & Jacque
  • SB 716/AB 797, prohibits the sale of coal tar-based sealant products and PAH sealant products, which are often used to maintain driveway and parking lot pavement. According to the Task Force report, PAH compounds from these sealants are often released into the environment and can cause environmental and human health effects.
    Authors: Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer), Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) & Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk). Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) & Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona)
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 30.
  • SB 717/AB 792, provides $250,000 for the Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection (DATCP) to administer, with DNR, a voluntary program to collect and store or dispose of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
    Authors: Reps. Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Felzkowski, Hebl, Kitchens, Novak, Pope, Shankland & Rep. Summerfield. Sens. Cowles & Miller
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 29
  • SB 718/AB 796, provides grants to farmers for nitrate reduction
    Authors: Reps. Kitchens, Shankland, Tranel, Krug, Summerfield, Novak, Kurtz, Pope, Hebl & Rep. Felzkowski. Sen. Cowles
  • SB 722/AB 800, provides grants for research, data collection and education on private well testing.
    Authors: Reps. Shankland, Krug, Felzkowski, Pope, Hebl, Kitchens, Kurtz, Novak & Summerfield. Sen. Testin
  • SB 723/AB 790, increases funding for county conservation staffing.
    Authors: Reps. Novak, Rob Brooks (R-Saukville), Felzkowski, Hebl, Kitchens, Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa), Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), Pope, Shankland, Summerfield & Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). Pat Testin (R-Stevens Point), Cowles & Andre Jacque (R-De Pere)
  • SB 724/AB 789, revises the well compensation grant program in DNR to address nitrate contamination.
    Authors: Reps. Shankland, Krug, Felzkowski, Hebl, Kitchens, Kurtz, Novak & Summerfield. Sen. Testin
  • SB 725/AB 798, provides grants for local water improvement groups to conduct projects using biomanipulation to improve the water quality.
    Authors: Reps. Summerfield, Brooks, Tranel, Krug, Kurtz, Novak, Kitchens & Rep. Felzkowski. Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie)
    Senate Natural Resources & Energy public hearing Jan. 29.

 

The report also recommends supporting several bills that have already been introduced, including a bill prohibiting PFAS-containing firefighting foam that passed the Legislature last week, updates to the state’s water quality trading program, several bills to address lead contamination, and a bill requiring DNR to notify counties when groundwater standards are violated.

Finally, the report recommends potential future action on a sustainable funding source for water quality programs, urges the Wisconsin congressional delegation to explore how federal farm policy affects groundwater, and supports current efforts of DNR and local governments to leverage federal funding for abatement of lead contamination.

 

On the same day the Task Force released their recommendations, Gov. Tony Evers endorsed the recommendations and released his own Year of Clean Drinking Water report. The report highlights three main water concerns: nitrates, lead service lines, and PFAS. The report describes actions DNR took in 2019 to address these water quality issues and provides future recommendations.

On nitrates, the report recommends requiring groundwater monitoring at agricultural sites, increasing concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permit fees, and increased funding, among other recommendations.

On lead service lines, next steps for DNR include a statewide outreach plan on lead abatement, utilizing lead service line replacement loan forgiveness programs, incentivizing plumbing apprenticeships to expedite lead service line removal, and prioritizing lead service line replacements in the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program.

On PFAS, DNR will continue to work on coordinating with other states on PFAS regulatory approaches, developing rules for PFAS standards, and continuing PFAS monitoring and research. (Read more about the PFAS recommendations.)

 

 

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