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Local leaders say state budget is biggest hope for PFAS help

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FRENCH ISLAND, Wis. (WXOW) - Governor Tony Evers 2021-23 budget proposal includes PFAS water contamination research and prevention funding but won't get passed until June 30.

Wisconsin State Senator Brad Pfaff (D-32nd Senate) said it includes $20 million in grant money that the Town of Campbell and City of La Crosse could use to help the community find out if their water is safe to drink.

"There is a grant program that's been established that will assist local units of government in regards to testing as well as remediation," Sen. Pfaff said. "I think that's very, very important as we go forward here because again we want to protect our homeowners through no fault of their own have been impacted by these forever chemicals."

Sen. Pfaff said this is the most immediate answer possible for the concerned community, despite the fact that some of the funding could get struck through when the legislature makes cuts to Gov. Evers' plan.

Wisconsin 95th District Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crose) said there's not much she can do to help the French Island community until Gov. Evers' budget is approved.

"I wish the budget could move more quickly so that people could have some surety right now," Rep. Billings said. "But we're trying to keep all eyes on the PFAS section too and make sure that that funding stays in the budget to help us down the line addressing the PFAS issue that we have on French Island."

According to Billings and Pfaff, the PFAS part of the budget includes the following:

  • $20 million in grant money for municipalities to test and remediate PFAS contaminated wells
  • $1 million to collect and dispose fire fighting foam containing PFAS
  • 10 new DNR positions specifically hired to make an anti-PFAS plan

"It's going to take some money," Rep. Billings said. "We can't expect the Town of Campbell or even the City of La Crosse to fully fund the fix that will likely be needed out there. The state needs to step up and the feds need to step up."

Town of Campbell residents like Suzie Black want elected officials to step up as soon as possible.

"Be it state, federal, or whatever to help the City of La Crosse make an answer quicker than what we're doing sitting around and twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out what we're supposed to do and who we're supposed to believe… It's ridiculous," Black said. "If people have the nerve to do that. I do. I'm not bashful. A lot of people don't want to get into this drama. They're having a tough enough time with COVID and isolation. I get it. I want to be a spokesperson and fight for them because it's only right for me as a resident to help my neighbors and everybody else I don't even know."

Rep. Billings encourages people like Black to call, email, or find her office information on Facebook to share their stories. Billings said this testimony could help her secure funding when the joint finance committee assesses how much money is needed.

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Marcus Aarsvold

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