MARINETTE — The Development Committee of the Marinette County Board voted Tuesday to direct the county’s administration to draft a resolution supporting Senate Bill 302 which would require the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to establish and enforce various standards for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances.

The resolution on a motion by Supervisor Thomas Mandli that was seconded by Supervisor Clancy Whiting was approved by a 5-1 margin with Supervisor Bonnie Popp dissenting and Mary Noll, who represents the Farm Service Agency on the committee, absent. When the resolution is drafted it would come to the committee for a decision on whether to forward it to the full county board.

PFAS in the Marinette County area originates from local fire suppression system manufacturer Tyco Fire Protection, a division of Johnson Controls, which began using the compounds in the 1970s for firefighting foams and sprays, with chemical testing and training at its local testing sites in Marinette. The chemicals used seeped into the groundwater, which the company announced in November 2017. PFAS has been found in Town of Peshtigo wells and and in biosolids produced by the cities of Marinette and Peshtigo wastewater treatment processes.

County Administrator John Lefebvre said he has received requests that the committee consider taking a stance on Senate Bill 302, which also has been introduced into the Assembly.

“I put it on the agenda for discussion to determine if the committee wants to recommend that the county board support it or if you don’t want to take any action,” he explained.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said the resolution could say something like “the bill is pending and Marinette County supports the bill.”

“I’m guessing this is kind of a partisan issue knowing the sponsors (in the Senate which include Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay),” Popp said. “We are non-partisan and this is a partisan issue so I can’t support it.”

“I don’t look at it as a partisan issue,” said Mandli, who resides in the Town of Peshtigo. “If you take a look at what is happening in the Town of Peshtigo it’s ripping apart local government.

“It is a major issue, it is a health issue. This is a solution to finally put some curtailing on that issue. It’s only being turned into a partisan issue because of the politics in Madison. This is only half of what we should be doing to protect our citizens.”

Mandli said “this is probably going to be our one major solution to the issue for the next century.”

He said action, whether it be partisan or non-partisan, needs to be taken to curtail more of the solution going into the environment.

“I live way out in the country where it’s been dumped on the fields around my property,” Mandli said. “Am I supposed to spend the $400 to get my well tested to see if it is in my water. 

“If it’s in my water what do I do? So I don’t look at this as being partisan. I look at it that we are protecting our citizens. We are finally getting a chance at getting a law in place to start protecting us.”

“The bill would basically require the DNR  to establish and enforce the standards,” Mattison said. “So it’s up to you if you want to address this through a resolution. You would direct us to put together a resolution. We’d bring that back and then you could forward that to the county board.”

Popp said “I support the concept, but it’s a partisan bill and we are non-partisan people.”

Supervisor Ted Sauve, chairperson of the committee, said, “I personally feel that we should go on record in support of this. It’s happening in the Town of Peshtigo.”

“There are many square miles of Marinette County affected by this,” Mandli said. “The Town of Peshtigo is taking a beating.”

The Wisconsin DNR announced Monday that its surface water test results have shown elevated levels of PFAS in creeks in Dane and Monroe counties and lower levels of contamination in the Mississippi between Minneapolis and La Crosse, the Wisconsin River between Rhinelander and Nekoosa and the Menominee near Marinette.