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Attorney General demands federal action on PFAS; group calls state's proposed water chemical limits 'extremely restrictive'Submitted: 07/31/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

Attorney General demands federal action on PFAS; group calls state's proposed water chemical limits 'extremely restrictive'
WISCONSIN - On Tuesday, state Attorney General Josh Kaul signed a letter demanding federal action on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of chemicals sometimes found in drinking water.

But also this month, a coalition of Wisconsin groups protested proposed state regulations which would highly restrict PFAS in groundwater.

Last Monday, the City of Rhinelander announced testing had found high levels of PFAS in a city well, causing it to shut down that well. That set off interest and concern over PFAS in the area. Excessive PFAS levels may be linked to health issues, like high cholesterol, low female fertility, and low infant birth weights.

The manmade group of chemicals are found in products like food wrappers, stain-resistant fabrics, and nail polish.


In Tuesday's letter, Kaul and 21 other state attorneys asked the U.S. Senate and House to support the addition of PFAS to a list of "hazardous substances."

"I intend to respond in ways that we can, and I think it's critical that our state, and our country as a whole, respond to make sure that we're protecting health," Kaul said in an interview on Wednesday. "I think it's critical that we respond in a way that both takes into account the science that's available but is also making sure that we're protective of human health."

The special PFAS designation would streamline the process of cleaning it from certain sites. The attorneys general also want the federal government to provide money to address PFAS in drinking water.

Meanwhile, a group calls new recommended state PFAS limits "extremely restrictive," warning that they could "devastate" Wisconsin's economy.

"Much of what's driving regulation now is fear, and it's fear that's not borne out of science," said Lane Ruhland, the Director of Environmental and Energy Policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC).

WMC is a member of the Water Quality Coalition, a group of organizations and trade associations.

In June, the state Department of Health Services (DHS) recommended an enforcement standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS in groundwater and a preventive action limit of two ppt.

WMC said the preventive action limit, the level which may trigger action from the government to ensure levels don't reach the enforcement standard, would be the most restrictive on earth.

"This is an incredibly restrictive limit, and we're very concerned about the potential cost implications of adopting the most restrictive standard in the world in Wisconsin," Ruhland said.

The proposed enforcement standard and preventive action limit now go to the state DNR, which will develop regulations with the force of law.

Ruhland said the DNR doesn't have the ability to alter the numeric recommendations suggested by DHS. At the time of this writing, DNR representatives didn't respond to an emailed question on whether they have flexibility to change the numbers before they become official regulations.

The Water Quality Coalition is also frustrated by what it sees as a lack of openness and transparency as DHS developed the PFAS recommendations.

"It's a black box," Ruhland said.

In a letter to DHS Sec.-designee Andrea Palm, Water Quality Coalition members wrote, "The entire process was completed behind closed government doors, and with no input outside of the state agencies. Stakeholders and citizens were not allowed an opportunity to highlight scientific studies and information, nor to provide direct information to the agencies."

The DNR process to develop official regulations will likely take years.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
NATH hosts e-cycling fundraiserSubmitted: 08/14/2020

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RHINELANDER - Traffic slowed to a stand-still on Highway 8 West out of Rhinelander but not because of any accident or construction.

NATH and The Good News Project partnered for the third year in a row to host an e-cycling fundraiser.

"There's still a huge line of cars waiting to drop off their things and that's been going on since before we opened at 8. It's been a very busy and very successful fundraiser," say Rick Covin, Board Member for the Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing.

NATH operates Frederick's Place in Rhinelander. This is their third year partnering with The Good News Project out of Wausau to host the electronics recycling event.

"We're having anyone from the area able to bring their electronics, even vacuum cleaners, stereo systems, computers, TVs, monitors, and for a small fee which is much less than you would have to pay at the dump," says Covin.

A portion of the proceeds will go toward helping fund the shelter's operation. COVID and other complications forced NATH to cancel many of their successful fundraising events, like the Harvest Hoedown normally scheduled for October.

"While our expenses have not gone down, even gone up some, our income, which is fundraising grants, and gifts, has gone down," says Covin.

If you didn't make it Friday, don't worry! You can stop by from 9 to noon Saturady.

"We'll all be here ready to take their recyclables and all that stuff that's been gathering dust in their basement, closet, and garage, gather that up, those old electronics you have to pay through the nose to get rid of at the dump, bring 'em here, and we'll give rid of em for a small fee and it'll go to a good cause," says Covin.

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MINNEAPOLIS - President Donald Trump's campaign on Friday announced details of his visits on Monday to Minnesota and Wisconsin, two Midwestern states that he's counting on winning.

The campaign says Trump will highlight "Joe Biden's failures on jobs and the economy" during his two airport events.

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Hodag Lanes Closing Submitted: 08/14/2020

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RHINELANDER - After over 50 years of staying open, Hodag Lanes in Rhinelander has officially closed its doors.

"I mean COVID has hit the bowling business really, really hard no matter where your bowling center is," said Sharon Cline, bowling manager at Hodag Lanes.

And with the construction on Stevens Street, the bowling alley was in a tough situation.

"The construction was also a big play for us because with all the construction out here it was tough for anybody to get through," Cline said.

A lot of memories were created in the bowling alley for various citizens in the city.

"I probably started bowling in the early '80s on the Wednesday night women's league," said Sherri Schilleman, Rhinelander resident. "We had the 9 o'clock slot I believe back then."

For her and many families in Rhinelander, bowling was very popular.

"Bowling is actually a big sport in Rhinelander," said Schilleman. "And I think in the last couple of years bowling was actually starting to make another comeback. So it's sad because people are gonna have to find something else to do."

But Cline is hoping that this won't be the end for Hodag Lanes.

"It is costly to have a bowling center but we're just hoping again that we can get up and running again," said Cline. 

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KENOSHA - A Kenosha police officer wounded in a shootout last week while investigating a vehicle break-in has been released from a hospital, Wisconsin Department of Justice officials said Friday.

A release by the department's Division of Criminal Investigation identified the officer as Justin Pruett, who has been with the Kenosha police force for two years. He suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, the Kenosha News reported.

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MADISON - The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received less than 1% of the money that Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group pledged to it two years ago amid the electronics giant's expansion plans in Wisconsin.

In August 2018, Foxconn committed $100 million to the university to help fund an engineering building and for company-related research. It gave the school $700,000 in the first year of a 5-year agreement and records show the school has received no additional money over the past year.

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KINGSTON, MO - Attorneys for a Missouri man accused of killing two brothers from Wisconsin are seeking to have two charges of abandoning a corpse dismissed in the case.

Garland Nelson, of Braymer, is facing the death penalty in the deaths of 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. They disappeared after visiting Nelson's farm in July 2019 and their burned remains were later found in Missouri and Nebraska.

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MILWAUKEE -  Milwaukee's former police chief, who was demoted to captain in part for using tear gas against protesters demonstrating over George Floyd's death, has chosen to retire instead of staying with the department. 

The city's Fire and Police Commission voted unanimously last week to demote Chief Alfonso Morales.

 Commissioners criticized how Morales handled multiple incidents involving Black people, including the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown. 

Speaking Wednesday on WTMJ-AM, Morales said he's retiring because if he returned as a captain it would be at a reduced salary and would negatively impact his pension payments. 

Morales also defended his record as chief. 

His attorney says he and Morales are exploring a range of legal action, including filing a claim for damages.

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