LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Statewide

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Env. Protection - Management

Env. Protection - Emergency

Env. Protection - Resources

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.



 
Learn
about PFAS contamination.
Join
or read about the PFAS Technical Advisory Group.
Stay informed
about PFAS contamination in the Marinette and Peshtigo area.
DNR database
Contact information
For more information about water quality and PFAS, contact:
Adrian Stocks
Water Quality Program Director

Water quality PFAS initiatives

The DNR is conducting a number of initiatives related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination and water quality in Wisconsin. These initiatives are:

  1. municipal wastewater treatment plant screening;
  2. surface water and fish tissue sampling; and
  3. adoption of new surface water quality criteria.

More information about each of these initiatives is available on this page, and additional information and data will be posted as it becomes available.

1. Municipal wastewater treatment plant screening

In July 2019, the DNR requested that 125 municipal wastewater treatment facilities sample their influent and effluent for PFAS compounds to gain a better understanding of how and where PFAS contaminants could be entering the air, land and waters of the state. Municipal wastewater treatment facilities with potential PFAS sources discharging to their sanitary sewers received the letter.

Wastewater treatment plants are not a source of PFAS, but many industries that have historically used PFAS may be discharging these compounds into sanitary sewers. Therefore, Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) are a logical screening point for identifying potential significant sources of PFAS across the state. Getting data regarding sources will help the DNR:

  • scope the extent and locations of PFAS contamination in effluent throughout the state;
  • prioritize efforts to address PFAS impacts as necessary to protect human health and the environment with currently available regulatory tools; and
  • accurately project economic impacts of adoption of water quality and groundwater standards during rulemaking.

In addition, this data will help wastewater permittees deal with PFAS sources now, instead of waiting until a surface water quality standard is developed. POTWs with sampling results above the screening levels can proactively work to identify sources within their collection system and develop pretreatment or source reduction strategies to reduce or eliminate the PFAS discharge.

How facilities were selected

Municipal wastewater treatment plants were asked to sample their influent and effluent based on several selection criteria.

  • The 27 largest municipalities were selected as these facilities are authorized to permit industrial discharges to their own sanitary sewers and have the most industrial contributors in terms of flow.
  • An additional 91 municipalities receiving wastewater from Significant Industrial Users (SIUs) - which are industrial users subject to categorical pretreatment standards, the majority of which are metal platers and finishers.
  • The remaining municipalities were added based on search results of the facility factsheet that included potential PFAS sources. The intention of this search was to identify municipalities with likely PFAS sources that are not SIUs.

2. Surface water and fish tissue sampling

The DNR's Water Quality Program, in cooperation with the Fisheries Management Program and other partners, is conducting a statewide monitoring project to sample fish tissue and water chemistry at select sites around the state near known or probable sources of PFAS. This project will help develop a baseline of PFAS contamination within the state, help to identify action areas and provide the necessary data for the appropriate response.

The objective of this monitoring effort is to describe PFAS concentrations in main exposure routes at sites with known or suspected contamination with comparability among sites and to collect paired fish tissue and surface water chemistry to aid development of a water quality standard.

2019 study

In summer 2019, DNR collected water chemistry and fish tissue samples from six waterbodies near known or suspected PFAS contamination sites. The sites included fire suppression training grounds; water wells where PFAS had previously been detected; and two locations where elevated fish tissue levels had previously been found. In most cases, samples were collected both upstream and downstream from these known or suspected contaminated sites.

In late September 2019, the first round of surface water sampling results was received from the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (WSLH). 36 PFAS compounds were analyzed, including PFOS and PFOA [exit DNR].

The remaining sampling results have since been received by DNR and are represented in the six site reports below.

Health information

The Wis. Department of Health Services (DHS) sent a letter to DNR on October 4, 2019, which assesses the health risks of PFAS in surface waters in the Starkweather Creek area.

DHS has made the following recommendations in order to best protect people and pets from potential PFAS exposure in all surface waters, including Starkweather Creek:

  • Avoid drinking or accidentally swallowing the water.
  • Wash your hands after wading or playing in the water.
  • Rinse pets after contact with water to avoid swallowing PFAS that may be on their fur.

Fish consumption

Consumption of fish containing elevated levels of PFAS is a potential human health concern. While DNR did sample fish as part of the study, we do not yet have fish results so we cannot say what concentrations of PFAS are in fish tissue. Special advisories may be issued due to PFAS concentrations in fish tissue after results have been received.

Current fish consumption advisories in place due to mercury and other contaminants should continue to be followed. More information on fish consumption advisories may be found on the Eating your catch - making healthy choices page.

Read more about the health impacts of PFAS.

Summary of 2019 study sampling results

  • Statewide, some PFAS compounds were detected at all locations, but many compounds were not detected.
  • The highest concentrations of detected compounds tended to occur downstream of known contaminated sites and in smaller streams with low flow.
  • Fish tissue results will not be received until winter/spring 2020 for most sites.

The DNR plans to summarize all information in a spring 2020 report. Water chemistry results will be paired with fish tissue analysis for PFAS to aid in the potential development of a surface water quality standard for Wisconsin.

For more information, read the FAQs about the 2019 statewide surface water sampling effort.

Starkweather Creek results

Starkweather Creek in Madison had the highest concentration of PFOA and PFOS among the samples received. One known source of PFAS is the fire training grounds at Truax Field Air National Guard Base where PFAS-containing firefighting foam products were used.

While samples for PFOA and PFOS in Starkweather Creek were high compared to other sites in the study, they were not as high as those found in other known contaminated sites in Wisconsin that are currently undergoing remediation.

In response to these findings, the DNR is taking the following steps.

  • The DNR is working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local public health officials to take steps to address public health concerns based on the findings.
  • The fish collected from Starkweather Creek in August 2019 are the top PFAS analysis priority at the Wisconsin State lab of Hygiene. Analysis of concentrations in fish tissue may be used to determine potential impacts on public health. In mid-September 2019, DNR staff collected additional bluegill and largemouth bass for PFAS analysis from Lake Monona near the Starkweather Creek outlet.
  • DNR staff are collecting surface water samples from additional sites within the Starkweather Creek watershed, as well as Lake Monona near the mouth of the creek, in order to help further identify potential sources and characterize extent of PFAS impacts to the lake.
  • In the spring of 2020, a comprehensive fish contaminant monitoring project is planned on Lake Monona targeting a variety of species for PFAS and other contaminants.

Sites in 2019 study

Information and results for each of the six sites in the 2019 study are available below.

Starkweather Creek

Waterbody: Starkweather Creek

Waterbody IDs (WBICs): 805100 and 805200

County: Dane

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 3 of 3

Fish tissue results reported: None

Site selection reasoning: PFAS was found in drinking water wells in the city of Madison in proximity to Starkweather Creek. Additionally, Truax Field Air National Guard Base historically held fire suppression training activities with AFFF, a now-known source of PFAS contamination. Other historical sources of contamination are likely located in the Starkweather Creek watershed.

map of PFAS study for Starkweather Creek

Monitoring locations: Four locations were selected for monitoring in Starkweather Creek, for which the headwaters of the West Branch originate on or near Truax Field and the Dane County Regional Airport. Three locations were selected on the West Branch and Mainstem of Starkweather Creek to cover the longitudinal span of the Creek. A fourth monitoring location was selected on the East Branch of Starkweather Creek to determine background conditions of PFAS in the watershed. Additionally, fish tissue samples were collected in the mainstem of Starkweather Creek near the mouth of Lake Monona. Water chemistry results will be paired with fish tissue analysis for PFAS to aid in the potential development of a water quality standard.

  1. West Branch Starkweather Creek at Anderson St.
  2. West Branch Starkweather Creek at Fair Oaks Ave.
  3. West Branch Starkweather Creek at Atwood Ave.
  4. East Branch Starkweather Creek at Milwaukee St.
Sample results from June 20, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. West Branch Starkweather at Anderson St. 2. West Branch Starkweather at Fair Oaks Ave. 3. Starkweather at Atwood Ave. 4. East Branch Starkweather at Milwaukee St. Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 23 43 27 2.6 ND
PFOS 79 270 160 2.6 ND
Sample results from July 17, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. West Branch Starkweather at Anderson St. 2. West Branch Starkweather at Fair Oaks Ave. 3. Starkweather at Atwood Ave. 4. East Branch Starkweather at Milwaukee St. Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 30 40 24 2.1 ND
PFOS 180 360 180 1.8 ND
Sample results from August 16, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. West Branch Starkweather at Anderson St. 2. West Branch Starkweather at Fair Oaks Ave. 3. Starkweather at Atwood Ave. 4. East Branch Starkweather at Milwaukee St. Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 20 34 18 2.3 ND
PFOS 71 220 120 1.5 ND

ND = Non-detect

Wisconsin River

Waterbody: Wisconsin River

Waterbody ID (WBIC): 1179900

Counties: Oneida, Lincoln and Wood

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 3 of 3

Fish tissue results reported: None

Site selection reasoning: PFAS was detected in public water supply drinking water wells in the city of Rhinelander. Additionally, a study conducted by the WDNR Wildlife Bio-sentinel Program found that PFAS was elevated in plasma of bald eagles collected from a large reach of the "middle" Wisconsin River.

Monitoring locations: Three locations were selected for monitoring on the Wisconsin River that spanned from below Rhinelander to Nekoosa. Sites were selected to spatially maximize coverage of the middle reach of the Wisconsin River. At these sites fish were also collected for fish tissue PFAS concentrations. Water chemistry results will be paired with fish tissue analysis for PFAS to aid in the potential development of a water quality standard.

  1. Wisconsin River below Rhinelander, below Hat Rapids Dam
  2. Wisconsin River in Merrill, below Merrill Flowage
  3. Wisconsin River in Nekoosa, below Highway 73
map of PFAS study for Wisconsin River, Site 1 map of PFAS study for Wisconsin River, Site 2 map of PFAS study for Wisconsin River, Site 3
Sample results from June 27, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Wisconsin River Below Rhinelander 2. Wisconsin River in Merrill 3. Wisconsin River in Nekoosa Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 23 12 6.5 ND
PFOS 3.1 2.7 3 ND
Sample results from August 9, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Wisconsin River Below Rhinelander 2. Wisconsin River in Merrill 3. Wisconsin River in Nekoosa Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 36 15 11 0.11*
PFOS 3.1 2.7 2.47 ND
Sample results from September 3, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Wisconsin River Below Rhinelander 2. Wisconsin River in Merrill 3. Wisconsin River in Nekoosa Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 17 12 8.2 ND
PFOS 3.6 3.9 5.6 ND

* Between the Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantitation (LOQ)
ND = Non-detect

Silver Creek and Suukjak Sep Creek

Waterbodies: Silver Creek and Suukjak Sep Creek

Waterbody IDs (WBICs): 1660500 and 1665800

County: Monroe

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 3 of 3

Fish tissue results reported: No fish samples collected in 2019

Site selection reasoning: PFAS contamination is suspected at two locations that are historic fire suppression training locations on or near the U.S. Army Fort McCoy training center.

Monitoring locations: Two location were selected on each waterbody; one location upstream of the old fire suppression training areas on one location downstream. The upstream locations should serve as a control to understand background concentrations of PFAS in streams within the region.

  1. Suukjak Sep Creek at 17th Road
  2. Suukjak Sep Creek at West N Street
  3. Silver Creek at Fort McCoy access bridge
  4. Silver Creek at Hwy 21
map of PFAS study for Suukjak Sep Creek map of PFAS study for Silver Creek
Sample results from June 25, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Suukjak Sep Creek at 17th Rd 2. Suukjak Sep Creek at West N St 3. Silver Creek at Fort McCoy access bridge 4. Silver Creek at Hwy 21 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 0.16* 1.4 0.11* 4.0 ND
PFOS ND 3.2 0.59 21.0 ND
Sample results from July 26, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Suukjak Sep Creek at 17th Rd 2. Suukjak Sep Creek at West N St 3. Silver Creek at Fort McCoy access bridge 4. Silver Creek at Hwy 21 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 0.15* 1.2 0.16* 7.8 ND
PFOS ND 2.9 0.43 43 ND
Sample results from August 20, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Suukjak Sep Creek at 17th Rd 2. Suukjak Sep Creek at West N St 3. Silver Creek at Fort McCoy access bridge 4. Silver Creek at Hwy 21 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA ND 1.9 ND 4.1 0.2*
PFOS ND 4.4 0.4* 26 ND

* Between the Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantitation (LOQ)
ND = Non-detect

Mississippi River

Waterbody: Mississippi River

Waterbody ID (WBIC): 72100

Counties: Pierce, Pepin, Buffalo and Vernon

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 3 of 3

Fish tissue results reported: None

map of PFAS study for Mississippi River

Site selection reasoning: Given the large watershed and history of industrial users within the watershed, there are likely many possible diffuse sources of PFAS in the river. One well-documented source of PFAS contamination is a 3M plant located just outside of St Paul, Minnesota.

Monitoring locations: Water chemistry monitoring stations were selected in Pools 3, 4, 6 and 8 to match scheduled DNR Fisheries Management fish contaminants monitoring. Water chemistry results will be paired with fish tissue analysis for PFAS to aid in the potential development of a water quality standard.

  1. Mississippi River Pool 3
  2. Mississippi River Pool 4
  3. Mississippi River Pool 6
  4. Mississippi River Pool 8
Sample results from June 27, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Mississippi River Pool 3 2. Mississippi River Pool 4 3. Mississippi River Pool 6 3. Mississippi River Pool 8 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 5.2 2.6 2.3 3.8 ND
PFOS 3.1 1.7 1.7 2.5 ND
Sample results from July 25, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Mississippi River Pool 3 2. Mississippi River Pool 4 3. Mississippi River Pool 6 3. Mississippi River Pool 8 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 2.9 1.9 3.0 2.2 ND
PFOS 1.5 1.3 2.1 1.9 ND
Sample results from August 14, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Mississippi River Pool 3 2. Mississippi River Pool 4 3. Mississippi River Pool 6 3. Mississippi River Pool 8 Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 8.7 3.3 4.6 3.2 ND
PFOS 4.2 1.5 2.1 1.5 ND

ND = Non-detect

Menominee River

Waterbody: Menominee River

Waterbody IDs (WBICs): 634500, 609400, 609200 and 609000

County: Marinette

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 3 of 3

Fish tissue results reported: None

Site selection reasoning: PFAS contamination has been detected in surface water, groundwater and drinking water wells in the Marinette area. Johnson Controls/Tyco manufactured and tested AFFF and is actively remediating two small streams that drain the city of Marinette south to Lake Michigan.

Monitoring locations: Water chemistry stations were selected at Chalk Hills Flowage to pair with DNR Fisheries Management fish contaminants monitoring and provide background concentrations. Four other monitoring locations were selected between Upper Scott Flowage and the mouth of Green Bay to capture a gradient of possible PFAS contamination to the lower Menominee River from multiple possible sources. Water chemistry results will be paired with fish tissue analysis for PFAS to aid in the potential development of a water quality standard.

  1. Chalk Hills Flowage (not shown on map below, ~50 miles upstream)
  2. Upper Scott Flowage
  3. Lower Scott Flowage
  4. Menominee River ~250 meters downstream POTW outfall
  5. Menominee River at mouth to Green Bay
map of PFAS study for Menominee River
Sample results from May 29, 2019 (Chalk Hills Flowage) and June 27, 2019 (other locations)
  Sampling Location
1. Chalk Hills Flowage 2. Upper Scott Flowage 3. Lower Scott Flowage 4. POTW outfall 5. Mouth to Green Bay Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 0.32* 0.51* 0.44 ND 0.6 ND
PFOS 0.31* 0.29* 0.3* ND 0.31* ND
Sample results from July 29, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Chalk Hills Flowage 2. Upper Scott Flowage 3. Lower Scott Flowage 4. POTW outfall 5. Mouth to Green Bay Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA NS 0.67 0.71 0.71 0.82 ND
PFOS NS 0.31* 0.32* 0.31* 0.4* ND
Sample results from September 16, 2019
  Sampling Location
1. Chalk Hills Flowage 2. Upper Scott Flowage 3. Lower Scott Flowage 4. POTW outfall 5. Mouth to Green Bay Field Blank
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA NS 0.5* 0.6* 0.56* 0.82 ND
PFOS NS ND ND ND ND ND

* Between the Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantitation (LOQ)
ND = Non-detect
NS = No sample

Peshtigo River and St. Louis River

Waterbodies: Peshtigo River and St. Louis River

Waterbody IDs (WBICs): 515500 and 2843800

Counties: Marinette and Douglas

Water chemistry sampling rounds reported: 1 of 1

Fish tissue results reported: No fish samples collected in 2019

Site selection reasoning: Agricultural fields in the Peshtigo River watershed have historically land spread biosolids received from the Marinette POTW. There have been public concerns about PFAS in the Peshtigo River, but no confirmed samples from the river. St Louis River was selected to pair water chemistry samples with fish contaminants monitoring being conducted by Minnesota DNR.

Monitoring locations: Three monitoring stations above, within and below the city of Peshtigo were selected for monitoring. If PFAS are found, this monitoring design should help determine if sources are from the upstream watershed or from more localized sources within the city of Peshtigo. A single water chemistry sample was collected on the Saint Louis River to pair with Minnesota DNR's Fisheries Management fish contaminants monitoring. The monitoring location was pre-selected by Minnesota DNR.

  1. Peshtigo River above Hwy 64 at boat landing
  2. Peshtigo River downstream Peshtigo Flowage between railroad bridges
  3. Peshtigo River below city of Peshtigo (river mile 7.65)
  4. St. Louis River at Arrowhead Pier fishing access
map of PFAS study for the Peshtigo River map of PFAS study for the St. Louis River
Sample results from August 14, 2019 (Peshtigo River) and July 1, 2019 (St. Louis River)
  Sampling Location
1. Peshtigo River above HWY 64 at boat landing 2. Peshtigo River below Peshtigo Flowage 3. Peshtigo River below the City of Peshtigo 4. St. Louis River at Arrowhead Pier
Analyte (ng/l) PFOA 0.73 0.87 1.0 0.62
PFOS 0.19* 0.27* 0.41 0.63

* Between the Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantitation (LOQ)


3. Adoption of new surface water quality criteria

In Wisconsin, PFAS have been detected in drinking and surface water near sources of industrial use or manufacture and near spill locations. Thus, the DNR is working to create human health surface water quality criteria for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as well as any other PFAS which the department determines may be harmful to human health in ch. NR 105, Wis. Adm. Code.

Water quality standards protect public health and welfare, recreational uses and the propagation of fish and other aquatic life. The standards consist of numeric or narrative criteria and designated uses. Water quality criteria specify the level of a pollutant that is protective of a designated use.

Adoption of new surface water quality criteria for a toxic pollutant can result in the imposition of new water quality based effluent limitations (WQBELs) and additional monitoring requirements in WPDES permits issued to municipal and industrial facilities that discharge the pollutant. The proposed criteria are expected to be numeric and may be expressed as a single number applicable to all waters of the state, or may be expressed as different numbers that are applied to different surface water body types.

The department will follow the administrative rulemaking process and the public will have multiple opportunities to participate in the rulemaking effort. This process generally takes about 31 months from initiation to promulgation.

Last revised: Tuesday November 12 2019