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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From Our Readers...

Issue Date: January 6, 2022

Editor:

Let's Start By Not Making The PFAS Problem Worse

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) groundwater and surface water standards at twenty (20) parts per trillion. Rulemaking is in response to a better understanding in recent years how PFAS affects health and the environment, when previously PFAS was viewed as not a hazard.

There are many sources for PFAS in the environment as it was a widely used substance. Most notably recently we hear of its use in firefighting foam that contaminated testing areas. But, it was also found in other industries such as metal plating and paper recycling. Large amounts of PFAS drained into water treatment systems. My concerns here relate to that.

For years the DNR did not monitor PFAS in wastewater biosolids when treatment plants sought to purge their holding facilities. If the biosolids passed other tests, the DNR permitted facilities to give it to farmers as fertilizer and save disposal costs. PFAS in the biosolid fertilizer soaked into the ground, and wells on the farms and surrounding properties now test at upwards of 200 parts per trillion, much higher than the proposed 20 parts per trillion rule.

Any rule on PFAS, whether generated by the DNR's administrative process or by statute, will grant the DNR the ability to order polluters to remediate pollution or suffer potential $5000 per day fines for failing to comply (Wis Stat 292.99). But, who or what has responsibility as a polluter? By Wis Stat 292.11(3), anyone who possesses a substance and causes it to discharge is responsible. Supreme Court decisions in State v Mauthe and State v Chrysler Outboard Corp interpreted that to mean anyone who owns land with pollution possesses the substance, and the owner causes a discharge each day that a molecule travels out of that land. The DNR can order the owner to remediate. It doesn't matter if a previous land owner originally introduced the pollutant to the land, or if someone else was the original source of the pollutant. Responsibility for remediation goes to the current land owner of land from which a pollutant migrates.

Therefore, on day one when the DNR promulgates the PFAS rule, landowners will not be polluters. On day two, however, when the first molecules migrate from their properties via the aquifer, the DNR will consider landowners polluters. Landowners and successor owners will be subject to remediation orders, even if the DNR chooses not to actually issue the orders. The result will be that PFAS contaminated land will drastically devalue the instant the DNR promulgates the rule, if not devalue to zero. No one will buy land with a specter of expensive remediation orders present in perpetuity. Further, plants and animals may retain PFAS, causing ripple effects in farming and dairy. Vast areas may become de facto brown fields with business, legal, financial, tax, social and personal consequences.

Having the knowledge of how difficult this issue is to make right, I was shocked to discover the DNR permitted new PFAS present biosolid spreading in the area recently. In 2021, as recently as November, 240 acres of farmland in Northeast Wisconsin received biosolids at the rate of 1.5 dry tons per acre. It contained PFAS levels as high as one hundred fifty thousand (150,000) parts per trillion. Simultaneously, remember, the DNR held public hearings for a rule setting a twenty (20) part per trillion standard for groundwater into which the PFAS boisolids soak. The DNR did that without determining safety independently, and instead relied on Michigan biosoid standards for a guide.

DNR did that without determining safety independently, and instead relied on Michigan biosolid standards for a guide.

Recent biosolid spreading is failure and mismanagement by Governor Evers and his administration. It must stop. An alternative to biosolid spreading is landfilling, and many communities pay for that. If federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds directly under Governor Evers' control could not be used to assist communities with costs, his administration should have sought legislative support. Instead, his administration quietly worsened a difficult dynamic, all while promulgating rules and giving speeches leaving our community an impression he's solving the problem.

Moving forward we need to re-establish value in the unusable properties without potable water. I have an initial proposal to include PFAS contaminated lands in the current grant program for solar farms on brown fields. There could be other solutions to keep the land productive, so let's brainstorm together. I'm confident we can be better stewards of the environment and help our neighbors, but surely we need to start by not making the problem worse.

Eric Wimberger

State Senator, 30th District



"Are You God?"

A frail little boy

Stood outside a store.

He had no shoes,

And his feet looked sore.

His clothes were ragged

And very thin.

When a stranger walked by

And invited him in.

Little Fellow, what kind

Of shoes would you like?

Find your favorite kind,

That will fit just right.

Now pick out a warm jacket,

Gloves, hat and some trousers and shirts.

We don't want Mr. Winter

To cause any more hurts.

When finally suited out,

From head to toe,

The man and little boy

Headed out in the snow.

"Thanks," said the little boy,

His face all aglow.

"Yet there's something, Sir,

I would like to know."

"Are you God?" the boy asked,

With a big grin.

"No," said the gentleman,

"Just a child of Him."

Then the boy smiled and said,

Without hesitation.

"I just knew you had to be"

Some relation!"

By Joyce Bedora,

Krakow


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