New Wisconsin Standards For Drinking Water Weaker Than Proposed
Wisconsin has a new drinking water standard - limiting the amount of acceptable "forever chemicals" that water from municipal sources are allowed to pass through their system on to customers tap. It's higher (which means it's a "weaker" standard) that what the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has originally proposed.
The difference is striking. The original proposal by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was for a drinking water standard of 20 parts per trillion for "the most widely studied PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS". That recommended number came from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
But when it came down to a vote, the DNR instead okayed a much higher threshold. According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the six to one vote approved "a drinking water standard of 70 parts per trillion" for those two chemicals.
While it's higher than what they were originally proposing, that 70 parts per trillion threshold does meet federal suggested levels. The number "is in line with the Health Advisory Level....issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016".
The concern with so-called "forever chemicals" is two fold. The combination creates specific problems for municipal drinking water sources.
First, these chemicals lead to "serious health effects":
"People living and working in areas with high PFOA levels have shown....increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, and fertility issues. The chemicals have also been tied to reduced response to vaccines."
The second concern comes with the fact that these chemicals don't have a half life. "[T]hey don't break down easily in the environment".
When it came down to it, the decision to "weaken" the threshold factored around mainly cost. The discussion by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources committee showed concern about the "astronomical" cost of implementation and the effects that such a stringent threshold would have on established municipal systems.