Wisconsin DNR board approves firefighting foam regulations

Wisconsin environmental regulators approved an emergency rule Wednesday that restricts the use of firefighting foam and lays out steps to treat PFAS chemicals.

PFAS are human-made chemicals that research suggests can cause health problems in humans. The chemicals have been used for decades in a range of products, including firefighting foam and stain-resistant sprays.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill February that bans the use of firefighting foam except in emergencies and testing at facilities with DNR-approved containment and disposal protocols. The DNR has been working on an emergency rule implementing the law's requirements.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the Department of Natural Resources adopted the rule on a 5-2 vote.

Under the rule, foam testing facilities must treat foam with incineration, standard carbon filtration or a custom system approved by the DNR. Facilities can't discharge water with detectable PFAS levels. If treated water still contains detectable PFAS, the facility must adjust the treatment system to ensure it's working properly.

The board was scheduled to vote on the rule in August but tabled the issue after business groups claimed the DNR lacks the authority to limit PFAS in wastewater and the department’s PFAS limits weren’t based on science.

DNR staff revised the rule to reclassify the limits as “action levels” that the agency could use to determine if a treatment method is working. The department said the standards are necessary to gauge if treatment is effective.

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