Doesn't the government require utilities to test for PFAS?
There is currently no state or federal requirement to test all municipal drinking water supplies in Wisconsin.
Most Wisconsin municipalities have never tested their drinking water systems for the presence of PFAS chemicals. Some local officials say they haven't tested because there is no state or federal requirement to do so. On the other hand, there is nothing in the law that prevents them from voluntarily.
A municipal well or surface water intake can be sampled for about $600. That's a small price to pay to ensure that a community isn't drinking contaminated water.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not currently require PFAS testing of drinking water. Under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, the EPA did require some utilities in Wisconsin to test for PFAS between 2013 and 2015. Results are available here. This was a step in the right direction, but only utilities serving more than 10,000 people were required to test, and testing was limited to only six (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFB) of the thousands of PFAS chemicals that exist.
All water utilities should conduct comprehensive PFAS testing, regardless of whether they were subject to EPA-mandated testing in the past. Methods for detecting PFAS in water have greatly improved since that time. Laboratories are now able to test for many more kinds of PFAS and to measure PFAS at even lower levels of detection.
It should also be noted that, starting in 2023, EPA is proposing to require water utilities serving more than 3,300 people to test for many additional PFAS, but those results won't be available for years.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the authority to require testing of unregulated contaminants like PFAS to protect public health. DNR is currently working with EPA and state legislators to design and implement a PFAS sampling program for municipal drinking water. DNR proposes to test 90 of Wisconsin's 611 public water systems under this program.
Current Legislative Efforts
Democratic lawmakers recently reintroduced the CLEAR Act, a bill that would give state agencies and local governments the tools they need to respond to PFAS contamination, including funding for testing public water supplies. Similar legislation was introduced during the 2019-20 legislative session, but Republican lawmakers refused to give the bill a public hearing. Governor Evers’ budget proposal also includes $10 million annually for PFAS testing, but the proposal would need to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Please contact your state legislators to tell them you support these efforts.
While #PFASFree Wisconsin supports current legislative and administrative efforts to address PFAS contamination, it will likely be months or even years before the state requires all municipal water utilities to test. In the meantime, you can send a message urging your water utility and other local officials to test immediately.