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Drinking Water Contaminants In Wisconsin Prompt DNR To Take Action

Wastewater treatment plants are relied upon by around 80% of the U.S. population, yet few people understand just how important they are. Wastewater must be effectively treated and “cleaned” before it can be re-released into the environment, mostly through aeration (of which 25% to 60% of the facility’s energy goes toward); if chemical contaminants and bacteria are not eradicated from the wastewater, they will continue to leech into the groundwater. Eventually, they will find their way back into our bodies via our food and drinking water.

Multiple states face a problem from the latter. Michigan and Minnesota have detected per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their municipal wastewater systems, leading others in the region to pay more attention to sources and spreads of contamination. Wisconsin has recently discovered that drinking water and groundwater across the state have been affected by PFAS, and the Badger State is jumping into action; the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is in the process of initiating a new voluntary PFAS testing program.

The DNR is planning to begin sampling and analyzing water flowing into and out of 125 municipal wastewater treatment facilities as they look for PFAS compounds. The goal is to discover how and where these contaminants are entering the air, land, and waters of the state before making their way into public and private drinking water.

PFAS are found in a wide variety of consumer products (such as food packaging, fire extinguisher foam, and products containing Teflon), making the act of narrowing down a source much more difficult. Studies have linked PFAS exposure to reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, and immunological effects, including cancer. These contaminants can enter our farm fields via land spreading and our groundwater through surface water discharges; from there, the trip to our drinking water is quite short.

“No one should ever be afraid to turn on their tap. Clean drinking water is a public health priority,” said DNR Secretary-designee Preston Cole. “Water is life-giving. We have an opportunity with this initiative to take a large step forward in protecting our citizens and our natural resources from harmful contaminants.”

Many industries employ sensors as a way of keeping tabs on dangerous situations. For example, load cell and torque sensor units measure certain kinds of force (and they’re able to operate in a temperature range of -452 degrees F to 450 degrees F, boosting their versatility). Although PFAS sensors and monitoring systems don’t exist yet, they could present as a viable solution if levels across the nation continue to increase.

Wisconsin has set a cumulative groundwater enforcement standard of 20 nanograms per liter (ng/L) or parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS, two PFAS compounds. Hopefully, the Badger State will be able to identify and eliminate the risk of PFAS drinking water contamination as a result of their efforts.

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