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EM Insight Quarterly news and highlights from the Environmental Management (EM) Division

Super Moon Over Kewaunee Harbor by Brent Hussin.

"Super Moon Over Kewaunee Harbor" by Brent Hussin. This photo was submitted as part of the 2019 Great Waters Photo Contest.

2019 Quarter 3: July - September
Montreal River in Hurley by PhilipSchwarz

The EM Insight is the Environmental Management (EM) Division's quarterly report that profiles some of the great results that have been achieved by our staff, teams and partnerships. The division is pleased to present the following highlights of our work done from July 1 through September 30, 2019.

If you'd like to learn more about any item you read about below, feel free to reach out to the contact listed under each item.

In this edition
Monarch on Bergamot by Julie L. Kinzelman. Samuel Myers Park, Racine.

PFAS updates

Executive Order #40

Gov. Tony Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water. As part of the statewide initiative to ensure Wisconsinites have access to clean, safe drinking water, Gov. Evers signed Executive Order #40 in August 22, 2019, to address the issue of PFAS in Wisconsin.

The DNR, in collaboration with the UW Survey Center and other state agencies, began developing in late summer a survey for Wisconsin's more than 850 fire departments to better understand how much PFAS-containing fire-fighting foam is used and stored around the state. Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which contains PFAS, is used for fighting highly hazardous, flammable liquid fires. State airports will also be surveyed in the near future.

Executive Order #40, along with a state budget provision, directed DNR to develop and administer these surveys. Survey information will be used to develop a cost-estimate for a potential statewide clean sweep collection effort once an effective alternative to PFAS-containing fire-fighting foam is widely available. DNR clean sweep contractors would also safely dispose of the collected concentrate.

The DNR is also working on best management practice recommendations regarding AFFF for airports, fire departments and other emergency response teams to use in the future.

Conceptual site model for how PFAS may enter the environment from firefighting foam applications.
Conceptual site model for how PFAS may enter the environment from one source (firefighting foam applications).
Source: ITRC

Contact: Mick Skwarok

New webpages and resources

Throughout this quarter, DNR staff have been working to create resources and host meetings related to PFAS contamination in the Marinette and Peshtigo area. Nearly 300 people attended a community meeting in Marinette in July to provide feedback and ask questions of DNR staff regarding the PFAS investigation and cleanup in the Marinette and Peshtigo area. Following that meeting, DNR developed a series of additional listening sessions beginning in the fall and made available several resources to maintain communication with area residents, helping to ensure that community members receive timely information and have convenient ways to ask questions or discuss concerns.

responsive icon made by freepik.com, downloaded by flaticon.com, licensed by creative commons.orglicenses/by/3.0.

Newspaper advertisements in the local newspaper provided residents with the fall and winter schedule of listening sessions; the first session was held in September and was attended by approximately 100 people.

Additional public information resources created during this time period include:

Contact: Mick Skwarok

Madison Wells 15 and 16 pilot study

A pilot study commissioned by the DNR in April revealed the possibility of additional sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination near two Madison drinking water wells. For the study, DNR hired an environmental consulting firm to inventory current, former industrial and commercial activities to help determine potential sources of PFAS affecting municipal Wells 15 and 16. The study showed that, in addition to known PFAS sources, there could be additional sources around the two wells that require further evaluation.

The next steps include taking groundwater samples from existing monitoring wells to identify other potential sources of PFAS. DNR and local officials will evaluate the results and methodology of the pilot study to help with evaluations in Dane County and other locations around the state where PFAS contamination may exist.

For the most current information, please visit the PFAS webpage, Environmental impacts tab.

Contact: Carly Marty

Wastewater PFAS data

In a letter on July 22, 2019, DNR requested voluntary PFAS sampling of wastewater influent and effluent from 125 publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) that receive waste from potential PFAS sources and/or significant industrial users. The letter also requested that POTWs that find PFAS at concentrations above 20 ng/L work with the DNR to identify and minimize industrial sources contributing PFAS to their sanitary sewers.

responsive icon made by freepik.com, downloaded by flaticon.com, licensed by creative commons.orglicenses/by/3.0.

Additionally, in conjunction with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene, the DNR continues to solicit participation by POTWs in a study on the fate and transport of PFAS within treatment systems. This study should provide facilities with an opportunity to understand how these compounds behave both within the operations and immediately adjacent their outfall.

To date, DNR has received PFAS effluent data from two POTWs (Marinette and Peshtigo). Four additional POTWs have agreed to participate in the study and some major POTWs have committed to sample for PFAS after labs have been certified for PFAS analytical methods.

Contact: Jerad Albracht

PFAS Technical Advisory Group meetings

The first meeting of the Waste and Materials Management PFAS Subgroup took place July 18, 2019, with approximately 80 attending either in person or via Skype. In addition to general PFAS background, presentations addressed leachate, groundwater monitoring at waste disposal facilities, management of PFAS-containing wastes, low-hazard waste exemptions, and the potential for PFAS contamination related to beneficial use of industrial byproducts and composting.

The Water Quality and Wastewater PFAS Subgroup held two meetings on June 21 and September 6, 2019. The meetings were primarily focused on technical and regulatory background on PFAS, DNR's request for PFAS sampling by 125 publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and surface water monitoring plans and results.

The September meeting of the full PFAS Technical Advisory Group was deemed a success with the use of Mediasite video and audio streaming to make the presentations and discussion available to a wide audience. Analytics from the meeting indicate that approximately 100 people logged in via the Mediasite presentation, while another 65 attended the meeting in person. Attendees were also enthusiastic about the meeting’s new structure, where representatives from all of the Environmental Management Division programs offered updates on PFAS-related activities.

Contacts: Jerad Albracht or Mick Skwarok


Headline news

Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality

As part of the Year of Clean Water, DNR, DATCP, and DHS participated in the statewide Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality hearings this summer. These hearings were held to gather information and make policy recommendations to better assess and improve the quality of both surface water and ground waterin our state. The three agencies provided their combined recommendations to Governor Evers. The Governor issued a press release endorsing the agencies' recommendations.

Contact: Carly Marty

Groundwater Coordinating Council Report and Recommendations

The Groundwater Coordinating Council's annual report to the Legislature shared key recommendations for protecting and preserving groundwater resources, summarizes the operations and activities of the council and describes the state of the groundwater resource.

The key recommendations highlighted in the report address some of the most prevalent issues in Wisconsin water quality, including:

  • protecting groundwater from nitrate and other agricultural contaminants;
  • promoting awareness and testing for naturally occurring arsenic which has been found throughout Wisconsin;
  • evaluating groundwater for viruses and other pathogens;
  • addressing emerging challenges such as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, livestock and mining industries and climate change impacts; and
  • continuing to catalog the groundwater resources of the state and support applied research answering key questions facing Wisconsin’s water suppliers.

Contact: Carly Marty


IT updates

Air permit tracking bar launch

The DNR's Air Program added a new progress bar in their Permit Search Tool to make permit tracking easier for facilities. The blue-shaded progress bar is displayed on each facility's permit tracking page, under the "Permits and Permit Applications tab."

As each step of the permit application review process is completed, a section of the blue bar at the bottom is filled in. Hovering over each section of the progress bar will display text indicating the completed step and associated date. The progress bar replaced the "Permit Milestones" table, serving as an easier, more visual way of tracking a permits progress.

Example of the Air permit tracking bar

Example of the Air permit tracking bar. In this example, the permit has been issued and the progress bar is full.

Contact: Craig Czarnecki

Mobile field app for Drinking Water and Groundwater staff

The DNR's Drinking Water and Groundwater Program has developed a field inspection application for use on a smart phone. The application allows a Water Supply Specialist to enter the details of a field inspection into a form using Survey 123, which works with ArcGIS to develop a location-based data set. The use of ArcGIS allows staff to enter the GPS location of a water supply well using the app and upload photos of the inspections very easily. The new application allows staff to complete all of their data entry in the field which is more efficient than previous systems that required additional data entry in the office. Incremental improvements to the apps will be made as staff gain experience with the apps.

Contact: Carly Marty

Website spotlight: Printer Portal

A partnership between DNR and the printing industry under the Green Tier charter framework has fostered collaboration on regulatory streamlining initiatives, education on compliance and sustainability strategies and promotion of new technologies and processes that result in more efficient, sustainable printing operations.

spotlight icon made by freepik.com, downloaded by flaticon.com, licensed by creative commons.orglicenses/by/3.0.

Monthly calls between printing association representatives and DNR staff often generate discussions about the difficultly printers have with finding the appropriate regulatory information online, including things like permit applications, e-permitting, electronic compliance certification, and annual reporting system links. As a result, the DNR created a new Printer Portal webpage. Now information that any printer might need to meet their regulatory compliance obligations or beyond compliance goals are found on a central Portal web page. Links are provided from the Portal page to a range of resources created by DNR's Air, Waste and Materials Management and Water Quality programs.

Contact: Renee Bashel


Social media spotlights

Find us on Facebook Top Facebook posts

Here are the top posts from the EM Division for July, August and September. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Facebook page.

July: Canadian wildlifes and air quality

August: Plastic bags

September: Recycling

Follow us on Twitter Top Tweets

Here are the top posts from the EM Division for July, August and September. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Twitter page.

July: Recycling and e-cycling Old Joke Day

August: Water quality

September: Aquatic invasive species

Follow us on Linkedin Top LinkedIn post

Here is the top post from the EM Division for July. Discover more on our Wisconsin DNR Linkedin page.

July: Air permit tracking tool

Last revised: Friday December 20 2019