The water quality issue in this area has been at the forefront for some time with the proposed Back Forty Mine in Menominee Township and the PFAS issue in Marinette and the Town of Peshtigo.

While the mine has gained preliminary approval, there are still several conditions to be met before permits are approved and it becomes reality. As for the PFAS issue, it is as complicated as it is scary.

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been used around the world since the 1940s in a variety of non-stick products. The chemicals don’t break down and can accumulate over time in drinking water, living organisms and food.

The chemicals can be found in firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and fast-food wrappers.

A problem with PFAS is no one knows the exact dangers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the chemicals can affect growth, learning, children’s behavior and increase cholesterol levels and the risk of cancer.

Not everyone believes that.

Business groups say the risk to human health has not been established and the technology to eliminate the chemicals from groundwater is extremely expensive and underdeveloped.

Johnson Controls Inc., formerly Tyco and Ansul, has been a key player because it produces firefighting foam. More than two dozen private wells in the Town of Peshtigo are contaminated and scores of residents have resorted to drinking bottled water.

Fortunately, state leaders are not standing pat. Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order to curb contamination. It calls on the state departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to work together to create a website on PFAS, collaborate with municipalities and wastewater treatment plants to identify PFAS sources and consider PFAS when developing fish and wildlife consumption advisories.

Furthermore, the DNR will have to create a council to develop a PFAS action plan for the state and it must develop regulatory standards for the chemicals.

These are all positive steps in the right direction to combat PFAS.

Locally, we encourage citizens to attend the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality public hearing Thursday at the Herbert L. Williams Theatre on the UW-Green Bay-Marinette Campus. It starts at 10 a.m. and will continue until 1:30 p.m. when members of the public will have an opportunity to speak following the invited speakers.

The task force, set up by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, was created to gather information and make policy recommendations to better assess and improve the quality of both surface water and ground water in our state, according to its website.

While no magical solution to the water issue will be found at Thursday’s hearing, it’s comforting to know the public will allow to be heard and the lines of communication between residents and officials will be wide open.

That’s very important in an issue as serious as safe drinking water.