Dane County supervisor seeks options to regulate airport PFAS remediation

Abigail Becker | The Capital Times Jun 25, 2021

A Dane County Board supervisor is requesting a legal opinion on what options the county has to regulate construction at the airport and oversee work to clean up contamination from PFAS.

Supervisor Yogesh Chawla, District 6, previously asked for the legal analysis during a recent county meeting. He said he wanted to follow up with a formal resolution, which was introduced at the board’s meeting Thursday.

“The purpose of this resolution is to provide greater transparency to the public, so the public knows what is going on at the airport when the water and the ground is tested for PFAS, when the tests are conducted and what the actual levels are,” Chawla said.

Supervisors Elena Haasl, District 5, and Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, are co-sponsoring the resolution.

The resolution asks for information on how the county might regulate the work to clean up PFAS contamination through its stormwater ordinances or any other authority.

PFAS — a class of manmade contaminants that linger in the environment for possibly centuries — exists in soils and water underneath Dane County Regional Airport and Truax Field on Madison’s north side, which also houses the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing. The contaminants likely stem from the use of firefighting foam.

In 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources named Dane County, the city of Madison and the Wisconsin Air National Guard as responsible for remediating contamination at the airport.

The Air National Guard is moving forward with construction of a flight simulator facility to accommodate the coming  F-35 fighter jets and the airport is embarking on an expansion of its south terminal.

The resolution calls for a website that would contain information on all PFAS tests and their results, and information about any meetings between Dane County, the state DNR, the Wisconsin Air National Guard and other contractors working on projects related to the F-35 fighter jets. It also asks for quarterly updates on projects at the airport.
An F-35 fighter jet arrives Sept. 19 at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington. The Wisconsin Air National Guard unit based in Madison has been awarded a squadron of F-35 fighter jets.
Wilson Ring, Associated Press

Even as a supervisor, Chawla said he had difficulty navigating all the information regarding PFAS contamination and the work underway to remediate it.

“Having one central website will make it easier for the public to understand it,” Chawla said.

Additionally, the resolution formally opposes locating the F-35 fighter jets in Dane County and directs the county’s legal department to explore tools available to halt all construction projects at the airport if PFAS levels exceed recommended amounts.

After being introduced, the resolution will head to various Dane County committees for approval.

A previous resolution that would officially oppose the project, delay construction agreements and ask the county’s legal counsel to look at strategies for blocking the Air Force’s plans and mitigating the impact has been stalled in committee and has not made it to the Dane County Board for a vote.

“Our hope is that this resolution will move through the political process efficiently, so it can come to the full county board for a vote by all county board supervisors,” Chawla said.