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Board set to order DNR to develop new water standards

January 10, 2020 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Department of Natural Resources board is set to vote this month on whether to allow the agency to begin drafting new water quality standards for a host of pollutants.

The DNR has proposed creating standards for 16 substances that are currently unregulated in groundwater, including E. coli bacteria and glyphosate, a herbicide that studies have shown can inflame animals’ gastrointestinal systems. The department also wants to revise standards for five substances already regulated, including boron and trichloroethylene, a solvent used to clean metal that can cause nausea and liver damage.

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The department also wants to create limits on per- and a polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in drinking and surface water. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in a range of products, including firefighting foam and non-stick cookware. Research suggests the chemicals can decrease female fertility, increase the risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women and lower birth rates.

The changes would mark the first revisions to Wisconsin’s water quality regulations in a decade. They could force municipal and private water systems to spend millions on additional testing and filtering, according to DNR scope documents. The department won’t be able to complete a cost-benefit analysis until the rules have been drafted.

Gov. Tony Evers directed the DNR to begin developing the regulations last year as part of his Year of Clean Drinking Water initiative. The DNR is a cabinet agency but its board still must give the department the go-ahead to begin drafting rules.

The board may need several years to write the regulations.