PFAS advocates came together to discuss 312 Senate Bill

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 5:37 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Advocates fighting against PFAS contamination came together on Monday morning to discuss Senate Bill 312. The proposed bill would distribute funds to communities struggling with PFAS contamination in their water.

The bill was already amended once, with the intent of it being discussed again in September. Not everyone agrees with all parts of the Senate Bill.

“While this bill provides much-needed funding to address PFAS in local communities, it also creates a polluter loophole that will restrict DNR authority, and our Spills law,” said Wausau District 3 Alderperson Tom Kilian.

The current spill law requires anyone who causes, possesses, or controls a hazardous substance that’s come into contact with the environment to take action to restore it. They’re then required to report it to the DNR. The DNR then takes action and investigates it to make sure it’s taken care of.

“They’re like the police of environmental stuff,” said Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg.

“Polluters should be responsible for paying for the profound damage and health risks that their actions and messes have caused,” said Kilian.

But the new bill would reduce the DNR’s authority by limiting the requirement of certain properties to test for PFAS. The DNR would also not be able to prevent or delay projects based on there being PFAS contamination unless there are substantial risks. Therefore, making it more difficult to respond and protect communities with contaminated water.

“Routinely our legislative processes have been polluted by money interest and corporate lobbyists who routinely have traded our people’s health protections for profit, and we see this in this element of the bill,” said Kilian.

While some disagree with the bill, others believe it will help the DNR focus its limited resources.

“That language on page 12, lines 4-7, really hits the sweet spot. That says yes we should do, require testing in Brown Field Cleanup Programs. Where we know that there was actually uncontained PFAS there,” added Scott Manley, executive VP of government relations at the Wisconsin Manufacturers of Commerce.

The funding for PFAS testing and infrastructure upgrades would likely come from the $125 million, which was approved by the legislature budget committee back in May.

“We want them to make sure the money they budgeted goes to the municipalities,” said Mayor Rosenberg.

The DNR told us they can’t specifically comment on what changes would happen if the bill is passed, since it’s still being discussed. We also reached out to some of the lawmakers who proposed the bill, but were not able to reach anyone.