WI State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ Task Force on Water Quality met for the first time in the state capitol this week to hear testimony from state agencies on water quality issues throughout the state. The committee hopes to put forth bipartisan legislative recommendations on clean drinking water by this fall.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) briefed the committee on pollutants found in Wisconsin waters, including polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). DNR pushed for funding for a proposal in Gov. Tony Evers’s 2019-21 state budget that would include two scientist positions at DNR to work on PFAS issues, provide $150,000 to develop a model to identify and prioritize sites with likely PFAS contamination, and provide $50,000 to conduct a survey on emergency response use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam.
The Department of Health Services (DHS) reviewed health risks of certain contaminants in drinking water, including nitrates and lead. DHS said scientists are still unsure of the effects of PFAS on human health.
The task force also heard from the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey.
Recommendations from the agencies included more funding for removing lead pipes, more protective manure disposal guidelines, and aid to municipalities to meet pollution standards.
The task force is scheduled to meet again in Madison on April 3, then hold public hearings at 12 sites across the state. The Task Force would like to develop legislation to address the issues raised in the course of its hearings by mid-summer. It would attempt to have that legislation enacted during the current legislative session.
Gov. Evers is also making clean water a priority in his administration. In his state of the state address, Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water, and his budget proposal includes over $70 million in water quality initiatives.
This report was derived in part from the Hamilton Consulting Group.