The Day of the Year of Clean Water | WisCommunity

The Day of the Year of Clean Water

January 8, 2020 - 4:48pm

Governor Evers declared 2019 the year of clean water in Wisconsin. Throughout the year meetings were conducted across the state of the Speaker's Water Quality Task Force, which heard testimony from organizations and individuals. Today the state legislature announced 13 proposed bills to address the water quality concerns raised in the past year.  In a press conference today Representative Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), chair and vice-chair of the Speaker’s Task b\Force on Water Quality, were joined by members of the task force to announce their legislative recommendations. The proposed bills would create an office of water policy.

The recommendations included bills to be funded at a 10 million dollar level to pay for additional staff in various programs and to increase funding for pro-active water improvement plans. The bills provide money to fund improvements in private wells to make the water obtained from them safer. 

The proposals also include money to help farmers reduce their additions of nitrates to groundwater and to add a staff member to help farmers improve grazing techniques to improve water quality.

An additional proposal addresses the concerns with PFAS chemicals in groundwater in the state. The primary source of these chemicals has been firefighting foam. These are considered "forever chemicals" which accumulate in human and animal tissues, and never biodegrade. Several areas in the state have been identified as being severely contaminated with these chemicals.  The PFAS and PFOA chemicals cause cancer and have been identified as a risk for childhood behavior, increased cholesterol levels, and the ability to become pregnant.

Studies have taken place of the quality of water throughout the state, and many of these studies are showing poor results, with wells either being contaminated with bacteria or nitrates. A small study of wells in southern Dunn County is underway, and some preliminary results from that study will be released next week. 

Today Governor Evers also released a new report asking for further work in the areas of nitrates in groundwater, PFAS contamination, nonpoint pollution, and lead and pathogens in drinking water. In response to the bills proposed, Evers spokesperson Melissa Baldauff stated "We are happy to see the legislature following the governor’s lead on addressing water quality,"

These bills may or may not become law. There are some points of contention between the governor's plans and the proposed bills, particularly in some areas involving the reduction of lead in drinking water and how that should be addressed. Additionally these bills face the same issues that all bills in this session will face in that the proposed legislative session is very short this year and many bills will not make the cut due to time limitations. 

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Steve Hanson
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