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Board authorizes DNR to begin drafting water standards

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The board of the state Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday authorized the department to start drafting new water quality standards for a range of pollutants, including PFAS.

Gov. Tony Evers directed the DNR to develop the regulations last year as part of his Year of Clean Drinking Water initiative. The DNR is a cabinet agency but its board still must give the department approval to draft rules.

The department has proposed: setting groundwater standards for 16 substances that are now unregulated, including E. coli bacteria; revising standards for five substances already regulated; and setting limits on PFAS in groundwater and surface water. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in a wide variety of products, including firefighting foam and non-stick cookware. Research suggests the chemicals can decrease female fertility, increase the risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women and lower birth rates.

The changes would mark the first revisions to Wisconsin’s water-quality regulations in a decade and could force municipal and private water systems to spend millions on additional testing and filtering operations, according to DNR scope statements.

The DNR board voted 5-1 in favor of drafting the regulations. Bill Bruins cast the lone dissenting vote.

The department expects it could take several years to develop the regulations, which will need legislative approval before taking effect.

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