Foam products used by firefighters contain PFAS. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
A program to collect and dispose of at least 25,000 gallons of PFAS-containing firefighting foam from fire departments across Wisconsin began on Monday, according to a release from Gov. Tony Evers’ office.
Fire departments in more than 60 counties have identified unwanted firefighting foam for disposal through the program, which was started through a $1 million allocation in the 2021-23 biennial budget to the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Germantown-based North Shore Environmental Construction was awarded the contract to handle the foam collection.
PFAS are a family of cancer-causing compounds known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily in the environment or the body. PFAS pollution has affected the drinking water in municipalities across the state, including Madison, Marinette and La Crosse.
PFAS are commonly found in household goods such as non-stick pans and some food wrapping, but Wisconsin’s largest sources of PFAS pollution have been the firefighting foam, which has commonly been used to put out fires at airports.
“Protecting our state from harmful PFAS contamination is a top priority for my administration, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing to tackle this very real problem in communities throughout the state,” Evers said in a statement. “We also want to make sure our dedicated emergency services workers, who show up to work every day to keep their communities safe, are healthy, safe, and protected while they are on the job. The firefighting community has been instrumental in making this program a reality, and we’re grateful for all their work to learn about how they can help keep themselves and their communities safe from PFAS.”
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