DNR sets PFAS rules for drinking water, surface water, firefighting foam

By: - August 2, 2022 6:24 am
Marines fighting fires with foam

Marines fighting fires with foam, a product that uses PFAS (Photo: Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced new administrative rules for perfluroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS). Called “forever chemicals,” PFAS and similar chemicals were used in man-made products from non-stick fast food wrappers to firefighting foam for decades. The bio-resistant chemicals don’t break down in nature nor within our bodies, and have been linked to numerous chronic diseases including cancers.

Two of the rules, now in effect, place regulatory standards for PFAS in drinking water and surface water. A third administrative rule set requirements related to the use of fire fighting foam with PFAS. Additionally, the third rule replaces the emergency rule for PFAS-containing firefighting foam, which has been in effect since December 2020. This prohibited the intentional use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam except in emergency situations or during testing purposes.

Establishing rules for PFAS in drinking water has been a difficult journey for the state. In February, the Natural Resources Board rejected the advice of scientists who recommended limits for PFAS in drinking water be set at 20 parts per million. The recommendation was also backed by the Department of Health Services. In a 6-1 vote, however, the board set a limit of 70 parts per million.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against three Wisconsin manufacturers and 15 other defendants accused of contaminating the state with PFAS and its relatives. Environmental groups have also pushed the DNR to institute PFAS standards for groundwater. Implementing the most recent trio of administrative rules were identified as priorities by the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) in the state’s PFAS action plan. WisPAC consists of representatives from close to 20 state agencies.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.