PFAS Investigation and Cleanup
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may enter the environment and result in contamination to groundwater, surface water, soil and/or sediment. In Wisconsin, persons who own properties that are the source of PFAS contamination, or who are responsible for discharges of PFAS to the environment, are responsible for taking appropriate actions. Those individuals must also immediately notify the state, conduct a site investigation, determine the appropriate clean-up standards for the PFAS compounds in each media impacted (e.g., soil, groundwater, surface water and sediment) and conduct the necessary response actions.
State definitions of "environmental pollution" and "discharge" of a "hazardous substance" are not the same as the definition of a hazardous substance in the federal Superfund law and in some other states' laws. When discharged to the environment, PFAS compounds meet the definitions of a hazardous substance and/or environmental pollution under state statutes (s. 292.01, Wis. Stats.). Discharges of PFAS to the environment are subject to regulation under ch. 292, Wis. Stats., and chs. NR 700-754, Wis. Adm. Code.
PFAS in soil may pose a direct contact risk to humans or result in chemicals entering the groundwater and surface water. The DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program maintains a web-based spreadsheet with soil residual contaminant levels (RCLs) that were calculated using U.S. EPA's regional screening level (RSL) web calculator, and following the procedures in NR 720.12, for determining soil direct-contact RCLs protective of human health.
The non-industrial direct contact RCL for both PFOA and PFOS is 1.26 mg/kg. The industrial direct contact RCL for both PFOA and PFOS is 16.4 mg/kg. There is no pre-determined, groundwater protective soil RCL for these compounds. Responsible parties would be required to propose a site-specific groundwater protection number.
The DNR's Water Quality Program, in cooperation with the Fisheries Program and other partners, is developing a statewide monitoring project to sample fish tissue and water chemistry at select sites around the state near known or probable sources of PFAS. This project will help develop a baseline of PFAS contamination within the state and help to identify action areas and provide the necessary data for the appropriate response.
Water Quality's wastewater program has begun requiring testing for PFAS in certain general permit applications near known or suspected PFAS sites prior to granting coverage for new dischargers.
Read more about Water quality PFAS initiatives.
Other Media (groundwater, surface water and sediment, air, etc.)
With respect to groundwater, federal maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and state groundwater quality standards have not been established for PFAS compounds. The DNR has requested that DHS recommend a PFOA and PFOS groundwater health standard in Wisconsin. Lacking a groundwater health standard, the DNR has authority to require that the responsible party develop a site-specific clean-up standard for all contaminated environmental media in accordance with NR 722.09, if no numeric clean-up standard otherwise exists. This includes discharges and environmental pollution impacting the air, lands and waters of the state.
Sites with Reported PFAS Contamination in Wisconsin
If sites are discovered that have PFAS contamination, the DNR will work with responsible parties to investigate the contamination and take any other necessary actions (i.e., provide emergency drinking water or cleanup of groundwater).
To view information on sites where PFAS contamination has been reported to the DNR, please go to the DNR's Remediation and Redevelopment Program database (BRRTS on the Web), then go to the "Advanced Search" tab and under "Substances" search for "PFAS."