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Local News

Gov. Evers Commits to Taking Action on “Forever Chemical” Pollutants, Stresses Need for a State Standard

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Anzhe Zhang 

Earlier this month at a press event, Gov. Evers reaffirmed his commitment towards taking action on PFAS cleanup and setting a health standard for PFAS consumer safety. The occasion was marked by Fincantieri Marinette Marine, a shipbuilding company, opening a new facility by a riverfront where long-lasting soil contamination was detected. 

The company’s executive, Mark Vandroff, noted that they were complying with an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and were taking the PFAS pollution “very seriously” amidst a deal to build two ships for the U.S. Navy.

According to the EPA, PFAS, nicknamed “Forever Chemicals,” stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and are “widely used, long lasting chemicals” that don’t break down for a long time. PFAS contaminants are widespread, appearing in water and food supplies at low levels and have been linked to health problems in both people and animals.

In April 2021, during the construction process of the new facility, the Department of Natural Resources found high concentrations of two of the most common PFAS chemicals, and also a buildup of other poisonous contaminants like arsenic. This matches nearby riverfront facilities, which have been built on landfills that have masked PFAS pollution for years.

Gov. Evers noted that PFAS pollution was a pressing issue that has a lot of people “scared” and “angry” as the state Natural Resources Board struggles to pass a standard for which PFAS chemicals have to be regulated for consumer safety, particularly when it comes to safe drinking water.

“We have to deal with it now. It’s really important,” said Gov. Evers earlier in March after PFAS standards failed to pass. With the issue, Gov. Evers is facing a two-pronged attack from those accusing him of being anti-business, and from those who say he isn’t doing enough.

Gov. Evers has previously stressed the importance of PFAS testing and cleanup, especially in 2019 as part of his “year of clean drinking water” initiative. Last year, Gov. Evers proposed nearly $26 million for the state towards testing water systems, PFAS clean-up, and removing firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals.

PFAS chemicals are still in need of research, with questions of exposure level, health detriment, and removal processes remaining mostly unanswered due to its widespread proliferation into regular water and food supplies.