Environmental liability

Wisconsin DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program Has Authority to Regulate Emerging Contaminants – including, PFAS Compounds

Chemicals that have seen industrial use for decades are now beginning to be better understood by scientists and others concerned with their potential impacts to human health and the environment. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFASs) are a class of emerging contaminants known to impact environmental media, such as groundwater, soil, sediment and surface water.

Additional information about PFASs can be found on the EPA’s web page, the ITRC’s collection of fact sheets and through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

When discharged to the environment, PFAS compounds meet the definitions of hazardous substance and/or environmental pollution under Wis. Stat. § 292.01. Discharges of PFASs to the environment are subject to regulation under Wis. Stat. § 292 and the requirements for immediate notification, investigation, and remediation in Wis. Admin. Code chs. NR 700 through 754.

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Updates to Wisconsin Spill Law Help Promote Land Recycling

Last November, the Governor signed 2017 Act 70, which modified Wis. Stat. ch. 292 (Wisconsin’s “Spill Law”) to help encourage brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The Act was based on recommendations made by the Brownfields Study Group in its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin.

Modifications to the Spill Law include:

  • Clarification that the off-site liability exemption applies if there is vapor intrusion impacting an off-site property (Wis. Stat. § 292.13(1m))
  • Changing the definition of “property” as it is used for Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE). The new definition is “…an area of real property that is included in an application to obtain an exemption under this section, made up of a legally identifiable parcel or legally identifiable contiguous parcels created in compliance with applicable laws.” (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(1)(c))
  • Specifying the process for changing the footprint for the VPLE “property” after an application has been submitted if the “property” is subdivided, combined with other properties or otherwise changed. (Wis. Stat. § 292.15(2)(at))

The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s role with brownfields redevelopment is not directly affected by many of the other provisions in the Act, such as changes to tax incremental districts (TID) requirements for environmental remediation; expansion of the property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing option to include brownfield revitalization projects; expanded options to address tax delinquent brownfields and other provisions.

Program staff will make necessary changes to VPLE documents and webpages and work with the program’s Land Recycling Team to identify other actions needed to implement the changes.

More information on the bill, including descriptions of the provisions in the Act, can be found in Senate Bill 173.