MARINETTE — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., met Tuesday with community leaders and state and local officials to discuss the issue of PFAS in the Marinette County area as well as in the State of Wisconsin.

The roundtable discussion was not open to the public, but Baldwin held a press conference where she gave a brief explanation of the PFAS issue and answered questions.

The emerging contaminant family of compounds known as PFAS is a group of substances that can be found in common household products such as stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products and firefighting foams, but can have detrimental health affects for those who consume it. PFAS in the Marinette County area originates from Johnson Controls-owned Tyco, through chemical testing and training at their local testing site in Marinette, and has contaminated a number of private wells in the Town of Peshtigo area, biosolids from the cities of Marinette and Peshtigo, fields which had the biosolids spread on them and local groundwater and surface water to the southeast of the facility and a few other locations.

“No Wisconsinite, in fact, nobody should have to worry about contaminated drinking water,” Baldwin said. “We know in this region there is PFAS contamination. We are still in the early stages of knowing about the risks of PFAS contamination and we have challenges also in regards to testing water to ensure we know when there is dangerous levels of PFAS.”

Baldwin said there are many areas throughout the state that are dealing with contaminated water, but since PFAS is an emergening contamination there is more urgency to study it and create policy about it.

“Clean water — clean water, particularly — is an issue we contend with throughout the State of Wisconsin with different contaminant risks,” she said. 

Baldwin said she believed the issue of PFAS especially should be handled at a federal level.

“The Environmental Protection Agency really needs to take leadership in the science, directing the science, but also setting a national standard for safe drinking water,” she said. “The Centers for Disease Control needs to create an environment for a greater understanding for how PFAS contamination impacts human health.”

Baldwin said there is a lot to do in the State of Wisconsin, but community involvement has helped and will continue to help.

She said steps to protect Wisconsinites have already been taken both locally and federally.

“When people discovered their drinking water from wells had been contaminated, there have been filtration systems installed and drinking water is being providing to homes without those filtration systems,” Baldwin said. “Those are being supplied by Tyco and Johnson Controls.”

At the federal level, Baldwin has introduced the PFAS Accountability Act which would require the EPA to set a drinking water standard for PFAS. 

“We don’t want them dragging our feet, so I worked to include a reform in a bill that is making its way through Congress to make sure that they do it in the tightest time possible.”

Baldwin said there is not enough research currently being conducted on the health risks of PFAS and she wants to see more done in the future.