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Simpson Street Free Press

Wisconsin Passes $125 Million Bill to Address PFAS Contamination

Dangerous artificial chemicals like PFAS have polluted Wisconsin’s waters and towns for decades. The Wisconsin State Assembly recently passed a $125 million bill to control and test for PFAS contamination in groundwater across the state, yet it could also exempt polluters from liability.

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are synthetic chemicals in many industry and consumer items, including cookware and water-resistant products. These chemicals are difficult to remove from nature and do not fully decompose. They seep into groundwater and lakes, and ingesting them can lead to a weakened immune system, liver disease, and cancer.

The legislation would offer grants to local governments and private landowners, using $125 million from the state’s budget trust fund to remove PFAS in wells and water treatment plants. Under Wisconsin’s “Spills Law,” anyone who causes or owns a dangerous substance released into the environment must clean it up. However, Democrats say the PFAS bill protects polluters because, in some scenarios, taxpayers would have to clean up the mess. Furthermore, a legislative committee must approve the funding for the legislation before it can help Wisconsinites with contamination.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers does not support the bill primarily because it limits the Department of Natural Resources’ authority. The bill states that the DNR will need permission from landowners to test their property, and the DNR is concerned about losing its authority. Republican Rep. Jeffery Mursau defends the restrictions to ensure farmers and property owners are not financially accountable, especially when they did not cause it.

Residents across the state ask why the government is taking so long to agree on a solution to PFAS. Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland voiced her concern, saying, “What’s more disappointing and more unfair is the people who have been waiting for years for the Legislature to get their act together.”

[Sources: Associated Press News, Wisconsin Public Radio]

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