Wisconsin preparing legal action against PFAS contaminators

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

Gov. Tony Evers on Friday, Jan. 22 announced that his administration is preparing to take legal action against companies responsible for PFAS contamination in Wisconsin. 

The governor, in consultation with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, asked the Department of the Administration (DOA) to begin the selection process for an outside law firm to help the state evaluate and pursue litigation against companies responsible.

The decision comes following recommendations from the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council's PFAS Action Plan released in December 2020.

"PFAS can have devastating effects not only on our state’s ecosystem and vital natural resources, but on the health of our families and communities across the state," said Gov. Evers. "It is unacceptable, and those companies responsible for the contamination of our land and water should be held accountable."

One of the action items recommended from the action plan is pursuing appropriate legal action against corporate actors responsible for the harmful discharges.

"As this announcement reflects, Gov. Evers’ administration and the Wisconsin Department of Justice take this issue very seriously," Kaul said. "We are working together to get contaminated sites cleaned up, support for those who have been exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS, and accountability from those responsible for the harms that PFAS have caused in Wisconsin."

Currently, Wisconsin monitors nearly 50 sites across the state for PFAS contamination.

PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These contaminants have made their way into the environment through spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants and certain types of firefighting foams.

PFAS do not break down in the environment and have been discovered at concentrations of concern in groundwater, surface water and drinking water. They are also known to bioaccumulate in fish and wildlife tissues and accumulate in the human body, posing several risks to human health.

Other states, such as Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire and Vermont, have already pursued litigation against corporate actors responsible for PFAS contamination and have leveraged the funds derived from the litigation to support the communities most impacted. 

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Wisconsin releases action plan to reduce PFAS chemical use

PFAS don't easily break down in the environment and have been used for decades in a range of products, including firefighting foam and stain-resistant sprays.