I’ve received several emails from residents worried that I am not sufficiently concerned about PFAS in Madison’s waterways. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I find PFAS contamination in our water systems very concerning, and I take it very seriously. I’ve voiced my support for state standards on PFAS, and I’ve made numerous requests for the Wisconsin Air National Guard to clean up the PFAS contamination on Truax Field. City staff, along with Public Health of Madison and Dane County, took the lead in alerting Madison residents of the PFAS pollution found in Starkweather Creek, and the Madison Water Utility has been a state leader in testing for PFAS and acting with an abundance of caution to close down Well 15. This is, and will continue to be, a topic to which I pay close attention.

I believe resident questions about my position on PFAS stems from comments I made in a recent meeting. At that meeting, I was contextualizing Madison’s efforts in the larger landscape of what can be done to address PFAS. Points I made within that message included:

  • PFAS is a contaminant of concern in Madison, as are other contaminants.
  • Much of the news and attention on this issue seems to focus on the few places we have data, which includes Starkweather Creek and our drinking water wells. But there are many sources of PFAS and we have little data about most of them. There is much we don’t yet know about PFAS in our environment. But we do know it is in many of our everyday products.
  • Municipalities, water utilities, and the sewerage districts can clean up and mitigate contamination, but that contamination stems from upstream sources. Unless we are trying to reduce PFAS levels in our consumer products, we will never win this battle.
  • As an example of consumer practices we can affect, I noted that the Madison Fire Department is looking at PFAS-free options for fire-fighting foam.
  • I also noted that the City will continue to do its part to address the pollution found in Madison.

My suggestions to also look upstream, or also look at other pollutants like chlorides, are not meant to downplay the importance of addressing PFAS pollution in Madison. But I will reiterate that local governments cannot do this alone. Cities need support from states and the federal government. At the state level, I will continue to support the development of standards and resources for environmental clean-up. I believe the federal government should also expand their support for environmental clean-up, review product safety standards to reduce the prevalence of PFAS in consumer products, and support research for safer PFAS alternatives.

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Category: Sustainability