DOJ Reviewing Case Against Accused Polluter, Big Campaign Donor

June 11, 2019

The state Justice Department is reviewing allegations that Johnson Controls International failed to report releasing hazardous chemicals that later contaminated drinking water in northeastern Wisconsin.

The state Department of Natural Resources referred the case to the Justice Department for civil prosecution. The DNR said the company failed to report to the state in 2013 that it found perfluorinated chemicals at a fire training facility it owns in Marinette.

The so-called “forever chemicals” resist breaking down in the environment and have since been found in private wells and the municipal water system in Marinette and in streams and offshore in Green Bay.

A Johnson subsidiary, Tyco Fire Products, makes and tests fire retardant foams that contain the chemicals. It did not report its 2013 test findings to the state until 2016 when further testing found the chemicals had spread off its property. Tyco and Johnson are providing bottled water to 125 residents and have installed 38 water treatment systems on affected properties.

Employees of Johnson Controls and Tyco contributed nearly $79,000 in individual campaign contributions to legislative and statewide candidates from January 2010 through July 2018. Republican candidates received $43,415 and Democratic candidates received $35,530 in contributions. The top recipients were:

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, $34,149

Former Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett, $15,850

Former Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke, $11,550

Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, $2,350

Former GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel, $2,300.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has received $250 and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has received $100 in contributions from Johnson Controls employees.