LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Governor Tony Evers was joined by legislators from across the state to address his budget plan for PFAS contamination and how they hope to tackle the issue.
After declaring 2019 the year of clean water, Governor Tony Evers has reintroduced a bill that hopes to continue the progress from that project.
He visited La Crosse on Wednesday and held a news conference at F.J. Robers Library in the Town of Campbell to discuss the bill and his plans. The conference began with Campbell Supervisor Lee Donahue discussing her personal experience and fear about the PFAS contamination and situation on French Island.
Donahue explained that they are all concerned about the safety of their drinking water and what it means for their health. She told everyone that their lives have been greatly affected and the situation has left families terrified.
"My family moved here nearly 20 years ago as a perfect place to raise a family. A small tight knit community where neighbors shovel each other's driveways and you know the name of every dog on your street. But now we are known for contaminated water which threatens the health and safety of all of our residents," she said.
While it is an issue that affects people in the La Crosse area, there are a number of cities across the state affected by the contamination as well. State Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison), who represents the 16th Senate District advocated her support for the bill which they will be introducing to the legislature.
Sen. Agard explained that they would present The CLEAR Act 2021 to their colleagues on Wednesday. It stands for Chemical Level Enforcement And Remediation.
"Clean water is fundamental to our well-being as individuals as well as a collective. I stand here proudly with Governor Evers whose administration is putting PFAS contamination front and center in the effort to ensure that there is clean water for every single person in the state of Wisconsin," said Senator Agard.
She went on to introduce a bill that she said they believe is the "most comprehensive plan to address PFAS in the entire nation."
"We cannot wait another session, another month, or another day to start addressing something as foundational as clean water," said Agard.
She said it is an issue that should be important no matter what your political views are.
The CLEAR Act 2021, she said, includes the creation of a PFAS Municipal Grant Program that will help hard hit communities like the Town of Campbell. Agard said it also creates a County Well Testing Program and creates funds to collect and dispose of PFAS contaminating fire fighting foams.
It also provides funding for sampling and testing of public water supplies and establishes and maintains ground water and drinking water standards for PFAS.
"The bottom line is this legislation, this bill, gives our state and the local communities within it to start addressing this crisis right now," said Sen. Agard.
Governor Evers followed Senator Agard. He further addressed how crucial this bill and funding are for people across the state. He said they have addressed the PFAS issue within the Badger Bounceback Program but there is a lot of work to do.
"Currently we are monitoring over 50 sites statewide for PFAS levels and folks across the state from Madison to Marinette are grappling with these forever chemicals," said Gov. Evers.
He explained that the CLEAR Act is an investment in our health and the environment as well as the economy.
"It's time to tackle this issue head on with an immediate, unified, and comprehensive approach," said Gov. Evers.
He said his hope is that the bill at least receives a hearing this time because last time. it did not.
"We can't wait for something to happen in every nook and cranny of this state to get legislators excited about this issue," said Gov. Evers. "We need action now. It is amplified every time we find it someplace else and sooner or later our friends in the legislature will need to take this seriously and our hope is that it's right now."
He explained that if the state can't get this bill passed, the people that live in the Town of Campbell will continue to have to bring water in from outside their home. The governor said that is not a solution.
Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) joined them as well to show her support for the bill. She said the opposition to it is hard for her to understand.
"Water is life. Clean drinking water is vital to everybody in the state but I think there are some legislators that didn't take it as seriously as they should have," said Rep. Billings.
Her hope is that as it continues to be an issue across the state, more people will take it seriously. She said all eyes in Madison right now should be on the PFAS issue. As more people that have been affected share their stories, she believes it will help push this bill to approval.
"We have heard from someone that lives on the Island here. We have heard from people that live in Marinette who have experienced this issue. We know people in Madison have experienced this issue. This is going to be an issue that emerges from throughout the state so we have to have everyone looking towards this and working towards a solution," said Rep. Billings.
INFORMATION AND PREVIOUS WXOW COVERAGE ON PFAS ISSUES