Wisconsin case shows how sewage plants spread unregulated toxins across landscape

STEVEN VERBURG sverburg@madison.com Jan 27, 2019

As Wisconsin discovers more PFAS contamination it will decide whether to follow the lead of Michigan and investigate the role of wastewater treatment plants in spreading the indestructible, toxic compounds across the landscape. Above, equipment used to test for PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Mich.


Detection of a toxic chemical in a northeastern Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant’s sludge has prompted a halt to application of the material on nearby farms and raised broader concerns about how public sewer systems across the state may be spreading the chemical across the landscape.

The contaminated sludge in Marinette also highlights unease and confusion in local communities over the absence of enforceable federal or Wisconsin environmental standards for the chemicals — often referred to by the acronym PFAS — despite at least two decades of research linking them to serious health problems.

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