MARINETTE—Fire chiefs across Wisconsin are working with state governmental leaders to secure funding for the collection and disposal of firefighting foam that carry dangerous levels of PFAS.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemical compounds that, due to their unique properties, are widely used in industry and the production of everyday products like nonstick coatings for cookware, stain-repellent coatings for clothes and carpeting, detergents, cleaning products and firefighting foams. Scientists refer to PFAS as “forever chemicals” because their chemistry keeps them from breaking down under typical environmental conditions.
PFAS chemicals, which have turned up in drinking water in cities across the U.S., including this area, have been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and kidney, testicular, prostate, breast, liver and ovarian cancers.
Marinette Fire Chief Jay Heckel presented his monthly report Monday to the Public Safety and Code Enforcement Committee. Alderman Doug Oitzinger, a committee member, noticed some “PFAS correspondence” in the report and he asked Heckel to expand on that topic.
The chief explained that, for about a year, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association (WSFCA) has been working with state Department of Natural Resources representatives to come up with measures that could help alleviate some of the concerns about PFAS.
He said WSFCA met with some of Gov. Tony Evers close panel members associated with the budget. “They identified some action items that they thought could be funded in the budget,” Heckel said. “One, for the collection and disposal of firefighting foam to a PFAS pre-version.”
Heckel explained that WSFCA met with State Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-De Pere. He said meetings originally began with former State Rep. John Nygren, a Republican from Marinette, but when he resigned in December, Wimberger was sought as his replacement on this matter.
Oitzinger asked if the meeting was fruitful.
“It sounded positive,” Heckel said. “He (Wimberger) is definitely aware of the problem.”
Oitzinger asked Heckel if he could supply him with language so a resolution could be drafted and then approved by the Common Council to help secure funding regarding the fight against PFAS.
“Would that be of some value,” Oitzinger asked of the resolution.
“I don’t think it would hurt,” Heckel replied. “This is a matter by the chiefs association to assist departments across the state. Anything in that direction would be a positive I would think.”
Oitzinger stressed that PFAS is a problem that must be solved.
“I know this is an issue because we have barrels of PFAS at fire departments all across the state,” he explained. “Now that we know how dangerous it is, we can’t just dump it down the drain. We can’t just take it to a landfill. So we’ve got an issue of properly disposing what is essentially a hazardous waste.”
In another matter, the committee voted 5-0 to forward a recommendation to the Finance Committee regarding a DNR Wildlife Deer Abatement Grant.
Police Chief John Mabry explained that the $3,000 matching grant is used to eradicate deer from the city limits. He said normally about 20 year are removed and that shooting takes place in January.