WED AM News: Chicago nonprofit touting potential of Midwest space industry; EPA proposes PFAS water standards at more strict limit than Wisconsin’s

— A nonprofit group called NewSpace Chicago aims to elevate the Midwest as a location for companies looking to serve commercial and government operations in space. 

David Hurst, a space tech entrepreneur and the organization’s executive director, spoke yesterday at Concordia University Wisconsin’s Strategic Space Summit in Mequon. He touted the potential for Chicago — and the Midwest overall — to become a hub for technologies and services needed for commercial and government space operations. 

“When you say ‘space,’ Chicago is not the first place that comes to mind … People typically think Florida or Alabama or Texas or California,” he said, noting none of NASA’s centers are located in the Midwest. “This is a problem, and this is one of the reasons why I wanted to start NewSpace Chicago in the first place. There should be a powerful presence for space in the Midwest.” 

Hurst pointed to Chicago’s role as a global financial center, transportation nexus for both federal highways and railways, and “vibrant manufacturing economy” backed by many research institutions and universities. He said the region has the third-largest science and engineering workforce in the country. 

He argued these factors make the Midwest the perfect place to establish a “center of excellence for the new space economy,” which is being led by established businesses like SpaceX, Blue Origin and others. 

“The intention is to reach out to entrepreneurs and professionals, investors, government workers, students and others and educate them about those amazing things that are happening only 300 miles above our heads,” Hurst said. 

As part of this effort, the group has been convening meetings and informational events with a goal of building community. It’s now located at mHUB Chicago, a manufacturing innovation center and innovator for “hard tech” startups developing physical materials and technologies. 

In just the past several years, at least eight space-related businesses have launched in Chicago, including Hurst’s own business called Orbital Transports, he said. 

Others include: Mudd Law, a space law and policy firm; Kall-Morris, a space debris removal and repurposing company; Galactiv, a satellite servicing business; Proteus Space, a manufacturer of small satellites; and more. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has compiled a list of companies based in the state with ties to the aerospace sector. 

See the WEDC list: 

See more on the Chicago group here: 

— The EPA has proposed the first national drinking water standards for “forever chemicals,” or PFAS, with a much stricter limit than the Wisconsin standard.

The proposed rule would limit perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid to 4 parts per trillion in drinking water. The state Natural Resources Board approved a 70 ppt limit last year, which aligns with health advisories the EPA issued in 2016. The Department of Health Services recommended 20 ppt.

Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Katie Grant told WisPolitics in an email statement the agency will work to align the state standard with federal standards once the EPA completes the rulemaking process.

“Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Health Services (DHS) recognize the need to assess risks to human health from mixtures of PFAS and appreciate the steps EPA has taken here,” Grant said. “Both agencies will review the proposed standards and accompanying documents and monitor the federal rulemaking process as the EPA works toward a final rule.”

The state will have three years to comply with federal standards once the nationwide standard is put in place. If the state doesn’t comply, the EPA will implement the limits in the state by working with public water systems as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a series of chemicals found in industrial and everyday products, most notably firefighting foam. They do not break down easily in the environment and are linked to several diseases and cancers in humans.

Clean Wisconsin Water Program Director Scott Laeser told WisPolitics the EPA announcement is an important step to address PFAS contamination. He said the state’s NRB-approved drinking water standard isn’t strict enough.

“We and many other groups pointed out at the time that the writing was on the wall, that that was not strong enough,” Laeser said. “And EPA’s announcement today, you know, clearly reinforces the risks that PFAS contamination pose to public health and the importance of acting and of removing these compounds from our water whenever possible.”

He said the proposed federal standard is “fairly ambitious,” but important considering the risks.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Director of Environmental & Energy Policy Craig Summerfield said the business association will carefully review the proposal, but said it “appears to go far beyond any reasonable criteria for regulating PFAS.” He said it is far more stringent than draft guidelines created by the World Health Organization.

“WMC continues to support standards for PFAS that are reasonable, cost-effective and based on the latest peer-reviewed science,” he said. “We look forward to reviewing the proposal in greater detail and submitting comments to the EPA.”

WMC last year argued the DNR didn’t have the authority to implement the DHS-recommended standard of 20 ppt. The group argued if the agency were to implement a standard, it would have to be EPA’s 70 ppt recommendation, which the NRB eventually put in place.

See the EPA release:

— WM, a recycling business with a site in Germantown, has announced plans to spend $38 million on new technology for the facility. 

The company says the facility is one of the largest recycling processing sites in the state, and the new investment will improve its ability to “process recyclables more efficiently and produce a higher quality product for manufacturers” that use recycled materials for feedstock. It will have recycling capacity for more than 200,000 tons per year, according to a release. 

“This investment demonstrates that our commitment to growing recycling in the state of Wisconsin is stronger than ever,” said Frank Fello, upper Midwest area vice president for the business, which used to be called Waste Management. 

The upgrade process is planned to start in May and wrap up by early December, the company announced yesterday. 

See more on the project here: 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report …</b></i> 

— Flu activity in Wisconsin has now largely dissipated, according to the latest report from the state Department of Health Services. 

And county officials in Milwaukee have released $11 million in opioid settlement funding for 15 projects aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and</i> 

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