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Republicans Once Again Fail to Protect Us from PFAS Pollution

Kirk Bangstad

In September I gave a speech about PFAS pollution at the water tower near Menard’s in Rhinelander, a symbolic place because PFAS pollution has already driven Rhinelander to the brink of not having enough safe water for its citizens.

Remember that PFAS is a “forever chemical” that doesn’t break down in nature or in the human body and is linked to all sorts of maladies, including cancer.  

In that speech I talked about how the “pollution lobby,” including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), killed a bipartisan bill called the Clear Act that would have cleaned up and safeguarded Wisconsin cities from PFAS pollution. 

I also talked about how Rob Swearingen, Rhinelander’s Assemblyman, introduced a meaningless amendment in the dark of night before the legislative session was about to end, in order to cover his arse with constituents, that everyone knew wouldn’t get passed into legislation.

What did get passed was a very limited bill to regulate how firefighting foam, an identified source of PFAS, was disposed of so it didn’t find its way into our groundwater.

Swearingen gloated over the passing of this bill during our debate on WJFW Channel 12 News, and in subsequent news outlets when asked what he was doing to help save Rhinelander’s water.

Well last Friday, members of the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) voted 6 to 4 along party lines to remove 14 portions of the rules regulating firefighting foam from state law.

Of course we know which party voted to kill PFAS regulations that were meant to protect Rhinelander’s water, and the water of other Wisconsin towns--Swearingen’s Republican Party.

So, as is the case with whatever comes out of his mouth, Swearingen’s rhetoric about doing something to help keep his constituents safe was meaningless. The tiny measure passed last year to at least help keep firefighting foam, and thus the PFAS it generates, out of our groundwater, which environmentalists had already said was woefully not enough to actually protect our drinking water, has been defanged in a small, hard-to-remember, legislative committee.

In short, because Swearingen and his colleagues are owned by lobbyists, not even the smallest measures to protect our water and our health are able to see the light of day in this state.

Yet we re-elected him.

The city of Rhinelander, the largest in the 34th Assembly District, actually voted to get Rob out of office. They’ve woken up and realized he’s directly responsible for endangering their water.  It’s time for the rest of the Northwoods to also realize this guy and his party could care less about our water and environment—the pride and joy of this area. 


Written by Kirk Bangstad on 12/22/20

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