Regulation of PFAS chemicals continues to develop in the Wisconsin Legislature and state agencies. Last week the Legislature passed a bill regulating the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams. New compromise legislation regulating PFAS was introduced last week and more bills are being drafted. Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed rulemaking on PFAS has been approved by the DNR Board.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are man-made chemicals found in many everyday products, including nonstick pans, cleaning products, paints, and firefighting foam. The most extensively studied PFAS compounds are PFOA and PFOS, which have been phased out of domestic manufacturing over the past decade. Studies have shown these chemicals have negative health effects, but it is unclear at what level they are harmful. These chemicals have been found in ground water, surface water, and drinking water in several locations around the state. Elimination of these chemicals from water and wastewater is difficult and expensive.

DNR Rulemaking

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Board voted on Jan. 22 to approve three scope statements under which DNR can regulate PFAS chemicals in ground, surface, and drinking water. The League, as a member of the Municipal Water Coalition, is working collaboratively with the Department on these rules. We submitted comments requesting that any PFAS water quality standards be science based, and developed using the same process the federal EPA uses to establish standards for drinking water contaminants; taking into account the cost of compliance, technical feasibility, and health benefits of a proposed numeric standard. DNR intends to follow the federal process in the PFAS rulemaking.

Read the League's comments on PFAS drinking water standards here.

Approval of the scope statements now allows DNR to move forward with the rulemaking process. Next, DNR will draft rule text and prepare an economic impact analysis. Under Wisconsin’s rulemaking statutes, DNR cannot promulgate a rule with an economic impact of over $10 million without legislative approval.


Both the Senate and Assembly recently voted on a bipartisan basis to pass AB 323/SB 310, which would prohibit fire departments from using firefighting foams containing PFAS in training, unless the testing facility has appropriate containment and treatment measures. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. The League supports this bill.

Other PFAS legislation working its way through the process includes:

  1. AB 792/SB 717, expanding the clean sweep program to include collection of fire fighting foams containing PFAS and appropriating $250,000 to help communities cover the cost of disposing and clean-up. The League supports this bill.
  2. AB 843, requiring DNR to create emergency rules establishing groundwater standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as any other PFAS for which DHS submits a recommended groundwater enforcement standard. The emergency rules may last up to three years. Also creates a PFAS municipal grant program. The League supports parts of this bill, but has concerns about other aspects.

Wisconsin PFAS Advisory Council (WisPAC)

In accordance with Executive Order 40, issued by Gov. Tony Evers in August 2019, Wisconsin state agencies convened the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC). The executive order directs the council to develop an action plan, develop public education protocols, identify sources, develop treatment protocols, collaborate with academic institutions on research, and explore avenues for funding. The action plan is due to the governor and Legislature by July 1.

WisPAC has met twice so far. WisPAC has decided to model its organizational structure after a similar council in Connecticut. WisPAC will make recommendations under four proposed focus areas:

  • Preventing future discharges and exposures.
  • Inventory and minimization of current PFAS exposures
  • Identifying and addressing historic or legacy PFAS discharges and exposures.
  • Educating and communicating about the risks associated with PFAS.

WisPAC has created two sub-advisory groups: one on local government and a second citizen group, which will include industry and stakeholder groups. The advisory groups will meet in February, March, and April. WisPAC will also send out a survey to the general public to solicit feedback on PFAS.

The next WisPAC meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20.

Local Government Advisory Sub Group. The first meeting of WisPAC's local government sub-advisory group is February 12 from 9-noon. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in Madison at the DNR office building, GEF 2, in room G09 . The local government sub-advisory group is co-chaired by Lawrie Kobza, representing MEG-Water; Paul Kent, representing MEG -Wastewater; and John Dickert, representing the Department of Revenue.