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EM Insight 2022 Quarter 1: January - March

Quarterly news and highlights from the Environmental Management (EM) Division

"Breaking Dawn" by Matt Bourke. Algoma, WI.
"Breaking Dawn" by Matt Bourke. Algoma, WI. This photograph won 2nd place in the Cultural and Historical Features category for the 2021 Great Waters Photo Contest.

The EM Insight is a quarterly report from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Environmental Management (EM) Division that profiles some of the great results that our staff, teams and partnerships have achieved. The division is pleased to present the following highlights of our work from Jan. 1 through Mar. 31, 2022.

If you'd like to learn more about any item you read about below, feel free to reach out to the contact listed under each item.

In this edition

 PFAS Updates

Gov. Evers Announces Funding Available for Municipalities to Voluntarily Test for PFAS in Drinking Water Supplies

In February, Gov. Evers announced funding for municipalities to voluntarily test drinking water supplies for PFAS contamination. Participating municipal water systems that find their drinking water is PFAS-impacted can potentially access resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to correct the contamination in finished drinking water. Recordings from informational and technical assistance sessions hosted by DNR staff from Bureau of Drinking Water and Groundwater can be found on the project webpage. DNR staff continue to be available to partner with communities to facilitate sampling, communicate results and support follow-up actions.

NR 159 Permanent Rule Update

The Natural Resources Board adopted a proposed permanent rule in January that establishes requirements for appropriate containment, treatment and disposal or storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam. The governor approved this rule and the Legislature’s Committee on Environment held a public hearing in March as part of the legislative review process. If the legislature approves of this rule proposal, then administrative rule chapter NR 159 will be created.

 Headline News

Air Quality in Entire State of Wisconsin Meets Sulfur Dioxide Air Quality Standards

In January, the Rhinelander area was formally redesignated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to attainment of the most recent federal air quality standard for sulfur dioxide. This designation officially recognizes that the air quality in the Rhinelander area is meeting this health-based air quality standard. The Rhinelander area also meets all other standards for all air pollutants regulated under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

“Meeting the 2010 sulfur dioxide National Ambient Air Quality Standard has been a complex process involving many areas of the DNR’s Air Management Program, EPA and facilities in Wisconsin,” said Gail Good, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Acting Environmental Management Division Administrator. “This widespread improvement in sulfur dioxide levels across the state is an air quality success story,” Good said. Emissions of sulfur dioxide from Wisconsin sources are approximately 90% lower than 2002 levels, with most of this decline attributable to the use of cleaner-burning fuels at power plants and industrial facilities, along with the introduction of low-sulfur diesel fuels.

DNR Awards Two Brownfields Grants

The Remediation and Redevelopment Program announced Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) awards to two communities - Monroe County and the city of Manitowoc. The financial awards provide contractor services worth up to $35,000 for the assessment of eligible brownfields sites. Participation in the program requires minimal effort by local governments and there is no local financial match; the program is an attractive opportunity for communities to learn about environmental conditions. Since 2009, the DNR's Wisconsin Assessment Monies program has provided over $2.9 million to communities across Wisconsin, partnering to help clean up and redevelop often run-down or underused properties that detract from a community's potential.

Cleaning Up Our Toxic Legacy in the Milwaukee Estuary AOC: What it Means for Our Waterways Moving Forward

Several projects are underway to remove pollution and restore waterways in the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC). The Milwaukee Estuary AOC Waterway Restoration Partnership hosted a virtual public informational meeting on March 14, 2022, to provide an overview of how the remaining contaminated sediment cleanup projects will be completed and to provide an opportunity for people to ask questions and provide comments. The session recording is available online. This was one in a series of community meetings to share updates about projects in the Milwaukee Estuary AOC. The Waterway Restoration Partnership is a group of over 20 long-standing, trusted partners—including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-- working together to clean up the Milwaukee Estuary AOC. As a community, we have a historic opportunity to remove pollution from our waterways to make the waters safer for people, support healthier fish and wildlife and improve recreational opportunities like fishing, swimming and boating.

Dredging Complete at Howards Bay

The Great Lakes Legacy Act dredging project in Howards Bay is complete, marking a key milestone in pollution cleanup in the St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC). Howards Bay is an industrial bay in the City of Superior, Wisconsin that’s important for Great Lakes commerce. The project was performed in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Fraser Shipyards Inc., the City of Superior, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in coordination with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The $21.5 million project in the St. Louis River AOC was funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with in-kind and cash contributions from the non-federal partners. The completed project provides a healthier aquatic habitat that will improve the overall health of the St. Louis River. As part of the project, the City of Superior plans to open the former landfill to the public as a natural area complete with gravel trails, benches and a pavilion.

Brownfields Fundamentals: DNR’s “Ready for Reuse” Program Can Fund Your Community’s Environmental Cleanup Project

Redeveloping brownfield properties helps protect public health, reduces blight and enhances community safety. In many cases, it also creates jobs, generates local tax revenues, and may have positive impacts on nearby commercial and residential development. Among the variety of resources and assistance that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can bring to the table to help towns and cities across the state address brownfield cleanup and redevelopment challenges is the DNR’s Ready for Reuse program.

Ready for Reuse is a program managed by the DNR and funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant. Ready for Reuse offers financial assistance to local governments, tribes and non-profits at brownfield sites that are currently going through the Wis. Admin. Code NR chs. 700-799 cleanup process. Ready for Reuse can also be leveraged at sites that previously received case closure with the DNR but have residual contamination that needs to be managed during construction. To find out if a Ready for Reuse loan is right for your community, or other ways that the DNR can assist with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts, reach out to the DNR to request a Green Team meeting.

 New Resources for Businesses and Individuals

Air Management Develops New Resources for Printers

The Air management Program released new resources to help digital printers across the state determine when an air quality permit is required for operation and which requirements apply to each printing device. The resources are available on DNR’s Printers webpage.

New Resource for PFAS-Containing Firefighting Foam Best Practices

The Office of Emerging Contaminants released a new resource for fire departments and other emergency responders. Firefighting Foam & PFAS In Wisconsin provides a summary of Wisconsin state law regarding the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam and suggestions to help reduce PFAS-related impacts on human health and the environment.

Guia de Reciclaje de Pilas Domésticas

En marzo, el DNR publicó una versión en español de su popular Guía de reciclaje de pilas domésticas. Esto forma parte de un esfuerzo continuo por mejorar la accesibilidad de la información sobre reciclaje y gestión de residuos.

In March, the DNR released a Spanish-language version of its popular Household Battery Recycling Guide. This was part of a continued effort to improve the accessibility of recycling and waste management information.

Trends in Wisconsin households’ ownership and disposal of electronics: Results from the DNR’s 2021 statewide household survey

The DNR released an in-depth summary of electronics recycling results from its 2021 statewide household recycling survey. The survey tracks trends in Wisconsin households' ownership and disposal of electronics, along with awareness and attitudes toward electronics recycling. The results help DNR and partners improve the effectiveness of electronics recycling outreach and identify barriers we need to address.

Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts

Wisconsin is getting warmer and wetter. Ice covers lakes for shorter periods of time and fisheries are shifting toward more warmwater species, like bass. Read the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) Water Resources Working Group report to learn more about how our waters are changing and what Wisconsinites are doing to help. This is not just a doom and gloom story, but one about recognizing and helping our waters adapt to change.

 Focus on Science

DNR continues to engage our stakeholders with virtual webinars and meetings

Understanding the Aquatic Plant Management Rulemaking: A Conversation with DNR – Madi Johansen

The Aquatic Plant Management (APM) Program is undergoing rule revisions for both NR 107 and NR 109 related to chemical and mechanical/manual management of aquatic plants. In January, Wisconsin Lakes hosted a conversation with the DNR for lake association and district members on the draft APM rule. DNR staff talked through the proposed changes to the program and answered questions from the public.

A recording of the session is available for review.

 Annual Awards and Awareness Campaigns

Celebrating Wisconsin Water Week

Gov. Evers declared April 4-10, 2022 as Wisconsin Water Week to showcase the value of clean water for all Wisconsin residents and to acknowledge the state’s efforts to protect our recreational waters, invest in conservation and ensure clean usable water for all Wisconsinites.

The 2022 Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers Convention, held during Wisconsin Water Week, brought together DNR staff members and water resources partners from around the Midwest to speak on a range of water science and conservation issues. This year’s theme, “Protecting What We Love for the Future,” marked the first time in the event’s 44-year history that protection was the core focus of the convention.

 Website Spotlight

The Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program has reconfigured its main landing pages to better serve our customers by reorganizing its website using three separate topic-specific pages: the Brownfields and Spills landing pages, and a new Environmental Contamination and Cleanup landing page. In addition, the RR Program made improvements to the RR Sites Map, which includes information about remediation and redevelopment activities in Wisconsin. Resources to help users evaluate sites in relation to socioeconomic data include links to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Redevelopment Mapper, the U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool and the Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) Social Vulnerability Index. In addition, layers from the CDC/ATSDR Social Vulnerability Index are now available on the map.

 Social Media Spotlight

Air, Air Everywhere

Air, Air, Everywhere poetry contest (Facebook: 160 engagements, 55 reactions, 2 comments, 24 shares)

Groundwater Awareness Week

Groundwater Awareness Week – March 6-12, 2022 (Facebook: 1,121 engagements, 212 reactions, 38 comments, 46 shares)

2022 Great Waters Photo Contest and Writing Project

2022 Great Waters Photo Contest and Writing Project (Facebook: 1,315 engagements, 767 reactions, 44 comments, 104 shares)

Battery Recycling

Battery recycling (Facebook: 196 engagements, 30 reactions, 10 comments, 10 shares)