MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin environmental officials say chemicals known as PFAS have contaminated creeks in Dane and Monroe counties as well as portions of the Mississippi, Wisconsin and Menominee rivers.

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals used in a variety of non-stick products such as fire-fighting foam.

The Department of Natural Resources sampled the five water bodies this summer because they’re near known or suspected PFAS contamination sites such as military bases.

The department said Monday that the first round of test results show elevated levels of contamination in Starkweather Creek in Dane County and Silver and Suukjak Sep Creek in Monroe County. The department found lower levels of contamination in the Mississippi between Minneapolis and La Crosse, the Wisconsin River between Rhinelander and Nekoosa and the Menominee near Marinette.

After the DNR’s announced it had found PFAS contamination at these locations both State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., issued statements regarding PFAS and their responses to the issue.

“Silver Creek in Monroe County and Starkweather Creek in Dane County are over 100 miles apart, but they are linked by a common thread: Immediate proximity to airports where firefighting foams containing PFAS were used. The use and uncontained spread of these foams contaminated the environment near my hometown of Marinette and a growing list of locations across the state,” Nygren stated.

“Though laudable for their performance extinguishing flammable liquid fires, the PFAS chemicals in these foams persists indefinitely in the environment and can be harmful if consumed,” Nygren continued. “In response to this issue, I authorized bipartisan legislation to greatly curb the use of these foams with the goal of reducing the contamination they cause.”

Assembly Bill 323 would generally prohibit the use of Class B firefighting foams containing PFAS; however, the foam could still be used in emergency firefighting operations. The bill would also allow testing if proper containment, treatment, storage and disposal methods, as approved by the DNR, are taken.

Baldwin stated that action is needed in regards to PFAS.

“PFAS chemicals are a dangerous risk to public health and our environment, especially near Starkweather Creek in Madison and Silver Creek in Monroe County where the highest PFAS concentration levels were found,” her press release stated. “I met with residents and stakeholders affected by PFAS water contamination in Marinette earlier this month who are advocating for public and private action to address the dangerous contamination of their soil and water.

“Staff from both the CDC and EPA were invited to my meeting in Marinette, but both agencies declined to attend. Now more than ever, they need to step up and invest in research o how PFAS chemicals harm human health and establish meaningful standards to help protect Wisconsinite from PFAS exposure. We must address this public health crisis now.”

Baldwin said she has been working at the federal level to provide resources for testing for PFAS, establish enforceable standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water across the country and to hold agencies accountable when they cause PFAS contamination.

“I’m going to continue my work to protect public health and ensure Wisconsin has clean drinking water,” she stated.