Wisconsin Treasurer and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski wants a federal ban on the future use of PFAS — toxic "forever chemicals" that can linger in the environment for centuries.
The ban is a pillar of Godlewski’s latest policy proposal, released Monday, which is focused on making “Wisconsin’s water safer.”
As part of the plan’s rollout, Godlewski will travel to Marinette, the La Crosse area and Superior to hear from voters about their water-related issues, her campaign told the Cap Times.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of man-made chemicals used in products like clothing and carpet, nonstick cookware, packaging and firefighting foam.
A Waukesha judge ruled last week that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cannot force companies to clean up PFAS without first creating a lawmaker-approved list of banned chemicals. The ruling highlighted how regulators in the state have struggled to form a response to PFAS in Wisconsin.
As part of her proposal, Godlewski said she’d back legislation that would require the EPA to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances and set a national standard for forever chemicals in drinking water.
Godlewski also wants to address the prevalence of nitrates in groundwater in Wisconsin. Nitrates in drinking water affect more than 400,000 Wisconsin residents, WPR reported, and have been linked to birth defects, thyroid disease and other serious health risks.
Runoff from farms is often responsible for high levels of nitrate in communities’ drinking water. The treasurer wants to work with farms to establish nitrate standards and require farmers to take steps to prevent chemical runoff.
Godlewski said she also wants to create incentives for farmers to utilize “conservation practices that reduce contaminations” of water sources.
The treasurer’s proposal also calls for more funding for lead lateral replacement. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law included $15 billion to replace lead pipes across the U.S. Of that funding, $48 million was earmarked for Wisconsin.
With that only covering a portion of the estimated funds needed to replace lead pipes in more than 100 cities, towns and villages across Wisconsin, Godlewski said she’d work to secure more funding to replace lead laterals.
“From forever chemicals in groundwater to lead exposure in homes, right now too many Wisconsinites can’t trust the water coming out of the tap and that’s just wrong,” Godlewski said in a statement. “Access to safe, clean drinking water is a human right and it’s on all of us to protect one of our most important natural resources.”
Beyond protecting drinking water in the state, Godlewski wants to create a federally-funded Great Lakes Authority, which would be tasked with financing “clean energy projects and infrastructure projects” and restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, among other things.
Godlewski also said she’d fight to bar companies “trying to take advantage of the water supply within Lake Superior’s watershed” from bottling and selling protected water supplies.
She said she would also seek additional federal dollars to help combat shoreline erosion in Lakes Michigan and Huron, which has been fueled by historic shifts in water levels in recent years.
“As senator, I’ll ensure Wisconsin’s waterways and water systems are safe for drinking, farming, wildlife and recreation and everyday life, and I’ll fight to hold corporate polluters accountable for carelessly destroying our freshwater state,” Godlewski said.