Tonight, a City of Madison water quality committee heard about the State’s process for developing groundwater standards for PFAS, a toxic forever chemical, and other unregulated contaminants.
During the meeting, the state health agency and the state department of natural resources will suggest standards to combat toxic chemicals in groundwater. ,
Adam DeWisse is the chief of the DNR’s Public Water Supply Section.
He says the rule-making process for groundwater standards takes about 3 years.
“That process started out with the Department of Health Services. They look at the toxicology data, basically set what they think would be appropriate groundwater standards, and then those groundwater standards have to be approved through rule-making with the DNR. It’s about a 30-month process, there’s a lot of opportunity for public input and stakeholder involvement for those groundwater standards, and then it’s very similar, actually, for creating a maximum contaminant level for drinking water standards,” DeWisse says.
According to a Department of Health Services spokesperson, public water systems are not required or mandated to meet groundwater standards.
Sharon Long is a laboratory quality assurance specialist at Water Quality Investigations, a lab that analyzes water systems and water quality issues. She’s also a member of Madison’s Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee.
Long says she wants to know how state agencies will navigate uncertainty regarding best practices for regulating PFAS.
“There’s some discussion of should [the groundwater standard] be based on a single, most prevalent chemical that make (sic) up the perfluorinated compound group, or should it be based on a summation of the individual concentrations of individual perfluorinated compounds detected,” Long says.
“We just have no idea if they work independently [or] if they work together, so those are some of the questions that need to be asked.”
Beyond PFAS, Long says staff from state health and natural resource agencies will also discuss potential groundwater standards for chromium VI, an industrial pollutant used in the production of stainless steel, chrome plating, and ash from coal-burning power plants.
“It’s known occupationally that breathing chrome aerosols can cause lung disease, lung cancers, and things like that. So, there is a potential thought that consuming high levels — again, we don’t know what a “high level” is yet — of chrome VI in drinking water could potentially lead to stomach cancers,” Long says.
Last year, 13 Madison wells were found to have chromium VI at levels that exceeded proposed state health guidelines.
A Department of Natural Resources board has a hearing scheduled next week to approve the scope of the Department of Health Services’ work.
Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an act addressing PFAS contamination.
The act would require the Environmental Protection Agency to designate all fluorinated chemicals in the PFA family as hazardous substances within one year of its passage.
The act also includes two amendments co-authored by Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. Those amendments would make , two fluorinated chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, listed under the Clean Air Act, and would require the Environmental Protection Agency to help people better understand their well water test results.