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NR 140 Groundwater Quality Standards Update

As part of a continuing commitment to protect public health and the environment, the DNR periodically updates groundwater quality standards in ch. NR 140, Wis. Adm. Code. Since its establishment in 1985, the Natural Resources Board has approved amendments to NR 140 twelve times in order to revise existing standards, establish new standards and clarify rule language.

Cycles and recommendations

In accordance with state groundwater law, the DNR periodically submits a list of substances to the Department of Health Services (DHS) and requests that they review available toxicologic information and provide recommendations for new and/or revised groundwater standards. These lists submitted to DHS are designated as NR 140 "cycle" lists. DHS then prepares a Scientific Support Document back to DNR which describes the information and methodology used to develop each recommended standard.

The department is evaluating work on substances contained in Cycle 10 and have paused work on the Cycle 11 NR 140 Groundwater Pollutant Standards. At this time, rulemaking has been initiated to set a groundwater standard for E. coli and to revise the current standard for total coliform. Following the EPA's June 15, 2022 issuing of interim HAs for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and final HAs for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO-DA) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals), the DNR is initiating rulemaking for these four PFAS.

Economic Impact Analysis

The rulemaking requirement to prepare an economic impact analysis (EIA) and solicit information for its preparation was part of 2011 Wisconsin Act 21. An EIA must be prepared for every permanent proposed rule before the Natural Resources Board can authorize public hearings on the rules, per s. 227.137, Wis. Stats.. The analysis must include information on the economic effect of the proposed rule on specific businesses, business sectors, public utility ratepayers, local governmental units and the state's economy as a whole.

Four PFAS

Four PFAS

The proposed rule will amend ch. NR 140, Wis. Adm. Code, to add new public health related groundwater standards for certain Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The proposed rule will add public health groundwater standards for the four PFAS for which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released drinking water health advisories (HAs) on June 15, 2022 in light of newly available science and in accordance with EPA’s responsibility to protect public health. EPA issued interim HAs for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). EPA issued final HAs for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO-DA) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals).

Four PFAS rulemaking timeline

Fall/Winter 2023 We are here
  • NRB scope approval
  • Preparation of proposed rule
  • Solicitation of information for economic impact analysis (EIA)
  • EIA public comment period
  • EIA comments
  • Public hearing on proposed rule
  • Public comment period
  • NRB meeting for adoption

Cycle 10 - Bacteria

Cycle 10 Bacteria

The proposed rule will amend ch. NR 140, Wis. Adm. Code, to replace the existing total coliform bacteria standards with new state groundwater quality standards for Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. The proposed rule will also transition total coliform bacteria from a public health groundwater quality standard to an indicator parameter.

Cycle 10 Bacteria rulemaking timeline

Winter/Spring 2022

Video: Public Hearing

  • NRB scope approval - May 25, 2022
  • Preparation of proposed rule
  • Solicitation of information for economic impact analysis (EIA)
  • EIA public comment period
  • EIA comments
We are here
  • NRB meeting for adoption

Cycle 11

Cycle 11

The DNR submitted a list of substances designated "Cycle 11" to DHS in April 2019. DHS responded with recommendations to DNR in November 2020. A plain language summary of each of the compounds in Cycle 11 is available at DHS's Recommended Groundwater Enforcement Standards.

Cycle 11 Rulemaking Timeline

 
Spring - Fall 2019
Fall 2020
Winter 2020/2021 - present We are here, on hold
  • Rule drafting
  • Advisory workgroups
  • Preparation of proposed rule
  • Solicitation of information for economic impact analysis
  • Draft of EIA and public hearings
  • Public hearings on proposed rule
  • NRB meeting for adoption
  • Rule approved by governor
  • Legislative review/hearings
  • Rule signed by DNR Secretary
  • Rule published and effective

Cycle 10

Cycle 10

On February 23, 2022, the Natural Resources Board considered and did not approve this rule. The scope statement expired on March 3, 2022. Any future rulemaking will take place under a new scope statement. See the Cycle 10 Bacteria tab.

The DNR submitted a list of substances designated "Cycle 10" to DHS in March 2018. DHS responded with recommendations to DNR in June 2019. Based on comments received during the rule public comment period, DHS has made revisions to their recommendations for Cycle 10 groundwater standards. The revisions to the DHS Cycle 10 recommendations are included in their revised scientific support documents below. A plain language summary of each of the compounds in Cycle 10 is available at DHS's Recommended Groundwater Enforcement Standards. The DATCP website contains additional information on the Cycle 10 pesticide compounds.

Cycle 10 rulemaking timeline

Spring 2018
Summer 2019
Fall 2019

Video: 11/12/19 Public Hearing

Jan. 2020 - Winter 2020/2021
  • NRB scope approval
  • Stakeholder group meetings - open to public
  • Preparation of proposed rule
  • Solicitation of information for economic impact analysis (EIA)
Winter 2020 - Spring 2021
Winter 2021
Spring 2022 NRB did not approve rule

Cycle 10 Stakeholder Meetings

Stakeholder Meetings

Before final consideration by the NRB, there were numerous opportunities for the public to submit feedback about this proposed rule. Below is an archive of the public meetings and materials shared with the public during this rulemaking process.

Past meetings
Meeting date and time Location Topic Resources
Oct. 14, 2020 This meeting was held remotely via Zoom only.
 
Bacteria

Aug. 25, 2020

This meeting was held remotely via Zoom only. Pesticides
July 21, 2020 This meeting was held remotely via Zoom only. VOCs
June 9, 2020 This meeting was held remotely via Zoom only. Metals and metalloids
March 23, 2020 This meeting was held remotely via Zoom only, following Governor Evers' order limiting the size of gatherings due to the risk of COVID-19 PFAS rules
Feb. 6, 2020 Madison
State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2)
Room G09
101 S Webster St
PFAS rules

Rulemaking Procedures

Rule change process, public input and timeline

The DNR creates and revises administrative rules to implement statutes enacted by the Wisconsin State Legislature [exit DNR]. Administrative rules have the full force and effect of law.

Rulemaking is an extensive process and there are many internal steps [PDF] that DNR and the NRB must follow during a rulemaking effort. Public participation is a critical component of agency rulemaking. There are numerous opportunities to participate in the DNR rulemaking process. For permanent rules, the entire process generally takes about 31 months from initiation to effective date of rule revisions.