Dear Editor, 

I was one of two persons representing the Marinette-Peshtigo S.O.H2O group at the Speakers Task Force on Water Quality Aug. 29 at the UWGB-Marinette Campus. We did a slide presentation on the Tyco/Johnson Controls PFAS contamination in our community. In our presentation, we made a very pointed plea to the legislators at the hearing that we needed Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass two bills introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature.

We endorsed Rep. John Nygren’s bill, AB-323 (and Senate bill SB-310) but asked that it be amended. The bill would ban firefighting foam that contained PFAS for use in training. It also would authorize the DNR to regulate the designs for containment systems for when PFAS firefighting foam is being tested. Our amendment, which Rep. Nygren has agreed to introduce, would also ban the disposal of this foam down sanitary sewers, which has been the cause of our city’s wastewater treatment plant biosolid contamination. If this had been the state law twenty years ago, none of the wells, drinking water, groundwater, surface water, or biosolids contamination in our area would have occurred.

Critics of the bill point to its not doing anything for the clean-up of the Tyco/JCI contamination in our area or regulation of PFAS in general. This is true. This bill is a start but it is not by any means enough to protect public health or the environment.

The second bill we supported was State Senator Dave Hansen’s SB-302 (and Assembly bill AB-321) which would comprehensively regulate PFAS in all its forms and set standards for groundwater, drinking water, surface water (rivers, lakes, the Bay of Green Bay), landfills, and even the air. This is the long-term regulation we need. This bill would provide the needed authority to the DNR to force Tyco/JCI to clean-up their mess.

As we said in our presentation, the Nygren bill is an easy lift. It follows firefighting foam “Best Practices” that even the industry lobbyists tout. It has many Republican sponsors in the legislature. The second bill is a much harder lift because it was introduced by Democrats and supported by Governor Evers. It is opposed by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and the Wisconsin Paper Council. They do not want PFAS regulated no matter how much poison is dumped into our water resources.

So here’s the challenge: Can the Republican majority in the State Assembly and Senate find a way to support regulating PFAS comprehensively, or will the polluters carry the day once again? S.O.H2O has shown we are bipartisan and will support both Republican and Democratic ideas that will protect our residents and the environment. Will the legislature show us they can be bipartisan, too?

 

Doug Oitzinger

Marinette