Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Press Release

Department of Health Services, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Work to Make Groundwater Cleaner

DHS Has Sent New Groundwater Recommendations to DNR

By - Jun 21st, 2019 01:06 pm

Working together to make sure the water you drink is safe, the Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) have reviewed key compounds that can be in Wisconsin’s groundwater and the effects they could have on health. State health officials today provided groundwater quality standards recommendations for 27 substances (link is external) to DNR as part of the state’s process to protect public health. Two per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – human-made chemicals used in many products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain resistant sprays, and firefighting foam – were among the contaminants reviewed.

“As Governor Evers declared, this is the Year of Clean Drinking Water, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the DNR as we work toward the shared goal of protecting the health of Wisconsin residents,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, DHS Deputy Secretary. “Using a rigorous, evidence-based process will help us assure that our water is safe, no matter where we live in the state.”

“Clean drinking water in Wisconsin is a public health priority,” said Elizabeth Kluesner, DNR Deputy Secretary. “The DNR has not revised our groundwater standards for 10 years and with these science-based recommendations in hand, we will immediately begin rulemaking to protect our citizens and our natural resources from harmful contaminants. This is another example of how we are working to return Wisconsin to being a leader in the field of environmental protection.”

After DNR provided a list of substances to DHS, health officials extensively reviewed scientific literature about each substance, using federal quality standards as a starting point when available, and created a document describing the rationale for each enforcement standard. In order to make these recommendations, DHS toxicologists reviewed over 5,000 scientific findings.

State law outlines a process that DHS and DNR follow, ensuring a scientifically rigorous review of available technical information and clarity on how recommended groundwater standards are selected. There will be a period for input on these proposed standards which DNR will announce in the coming months. Having received the DHS recommendations, DNR can propose rules to incorporate these new or revised standards (link is external).

Once the rulemaking process is complete, the new or revised standards will be added to the state’s 138 existing NR 140 (link is external) groundwater quality standards. These standards are used for regulating facilities, practices, and activities that can affect groundwater. They apply to bottled water, approved agricultural chemicals, contamination site cleanup, regulation of solid waste landfills, and more. Groundwater standards have been set or revised in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2006, and 2010.

DATCP was another important contributor to the substance list, submitting several agricultural chemicals to DNR for review. DATCP will use resulting enforcement standards to guide its work in groundwater protection.

To further protect groundwater, DHS will review an additional 40 substances (link is external) in 2019 and 2020, as requested by DNR in April. State law defines the review and rulemaking process for contaminants. More information about the groundwater quality standards recommendations and rulemaking process is available on the DHS website.

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