PFAS in Waters of Wisconsin

For September 22, 2021

Hi WN@TL Fans,

 My major professor at UW-Madison, plant virologist Robert W. Fulton, was an avid trout angler who tied flies and stalked streams in western Dane County and in the hollers of the Driftless in pursuit of the wiley salmonid.  I asked him once about how he got permission from landowners to access such small creeks, and I was astonished when he replied he didn’t need permission: the navigable waters of Wisconsin include any stream that is able to float a log or a canoe at some point during a year.  This was an astoundingly broad definition of a public resource, especially to a canoeist from Illinois, where the public waterways are strictly delineated and narrow in scope.  “Whatever floats your boat”  takes on a breathtaking nautical meaning in Wisconsin.  It was my first taste of how folks (and the law) look at public waterways differently in Wisconsin than in some other places.

Some time later I was introduced to the Public Trust Doctrine of the Waters of Wisconsin and was again impressed with the distribution of rights of the public relative to the rights of the owner of land bordering on a navigable waterway.  I have the impression (I may be wrong) that there’s no such thing as a private beach along the Wisconsin portions of the Great Lakes, provided you are walking on that part of the shore that is within the normal high water level.  Thus the doctrine makes for the possibility of days-long treks on the sandy and the hardscrabble shores of Lakes Superior and Michigan.

The third prong in this trident of freshwater stewardship was learning of the origins of the Hamm’s Beer ad. To a Flatlander like me, Hamm’s was strictly a Minnesota beer, like Grain Belt and Schmidt. So I was nonplussed to learn that Ernie Garven, the Minnesotan who in 1952 wrote the words & tune of the Hamm’s beer song, had tapped into inspiration while on vacation in Wisconsin.  “The land of sky-blue waters” captures three of the most vibrant and cherished ideas of both states that border the St. Croix:  water, land and sky.

And so it is that this week’s presentation invokes a phrase that to my ear strings and sings some of the most evocative words in the badger state:  “The Waters of Wisconsin.”


Prof Christy Remucal

On September 22 we welcome back Christy Remucal of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to speak on “PFAS in Waters of Wisconsin.”

 Description: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of >5,000 synthetic chemicals that are used in commercial products, fire fighting foams, and industrial applications. PFAS are increasingly detected in surface waters and groundwater in Wisconsin, where they are raising concerns about human and ecosystem health. This talk will discuss the prevalence of PFAS in the Great Lakes, with a specific focus on the Marinette and Peshtigo region due to known contamination in that area.

Bio: Associate Professor Christy Remucal leads the Aquatic Chemistry group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is the Director of the Water Science and Engineering Laboratory. She is a faculty member in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Environmental Chemistry & Technology Program. She holds an MS (2004) and a PhD (2009) in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BS (2003) in Environmental Engineering Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining the UW faculty, Christy completed a post-doc in the Institute for Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

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Lineup of WN@TL speakers Sept 15 to Oct 6 2021
WN@TL Lineup