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Environment & Science

Lawmakers say they'll consider regulating PFAS chemicals

Oct 9, 2018
A map of Michigan shows several orange dots denoting locations where PFAS has been discovered.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers at the state capitol are expected to take a deeper look at regulating a class of chemicals known as PFAS.

The chemicals have been found in drinking water, surface water, and groundwater throughout the state. Republican leaders in Lansing say they plan to hear testimony this fall on the effects of PFAS chemicals, and they’ll decide whether to set rigorous standards for cleanup of the chemicals.

Republican Gary Howell is from Lapeer County. He chairs the state House Natural Resources Committee.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan is finding industrial chemicals known as PFAS in the tissue of fish. So it's been issuing “Don’t Eat the Fish” advisories along lakes, rivers and streams. But there are concerns about whether state officials are doing as much as they should. 

Before we get too far into the story, we have to start with a little science.

The reason PFAS chemical contamination in fish is such a concern is because of something called bioaccumulation.

A map of Michigan shows several orange dots denoting locations where PFAS has been discovered.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

UPDATE: This story was updated at 3:53 p.m.

This week, the Environment Report is looking at industrial chemicals called per- and polyfluoralkyl substances – or PFAS. 

People all over Michigan have questions about these chemicals that are being found in their drinking water.

A map of Michigan shows several orange dots denoting locations where PFAS has been discovered.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

This spring, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality set out to test 1,300 public water systems for PFAS. So far, it's showed up in 69 places, ranging from large city systems to small mobile home park supplies.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

This week, we’re looking at PFAS chemicals: they're industrial chemicals that have contaminated water sources around the state.

PFAS chemicals are used to make a lot of products stain and water resistant.

PFAS foam washing up on the shore of Van Ettan Lake.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Over the past two years, Michiganders across the state have become aware of the chemicals known as PFAS. They first made news when elevated levels were found in more than 20 private water wells in Oscoda. Now, there are 35 known contamination sites around the state.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

Governor Rick Snyder announced Wednesday that his administration has reached an agreement with Enbridge Energy to replace Line 5, the 65 year old twin pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. 

The agreement calls for a new pipeline that would run through a tunnel dug into bedrock below the lake bed. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One of the contaminated PFAS sites first documented in Michigan was in Oscoda Township near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The base has been closed for years.  Firefighting training there used a fire suppressant foam containing a PFAS chemical.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Governor Rick Snyder wants to improve the state’s response time to PFAS chemicals. They’ve been found in groundwater, surface water, and drinking water across the state. Snyder issued a directive on Tuesday calling on state departments and agencies to create a readiness and response plan.

“We want to be ready in case something else happens, how do we respond as quickly and effectively as possible and that’s what this is about,” said Snyder spokesperson Ari Adler.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There have been more news stories in recent months about water contamination from a group of industrial chemicals. PFAS chemical pollution seems to have come out of nowhere. That’s not exactly true. PFAS contamination has been known to be a problem. What's different is we’re discovering the problem is bigger than imagined.

In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS. This pollution is coming from a variety of sources.

For Love of Water

The condition of Michigan's groundwater is getting worse, according to a report released this week by the non-profit group FLOW, or For Love of Water. 

The report  is entitled "The Sixth Great Lake: The Emergency Threatening Michigan's Overlooked Groundwater Resource." According to FLOW, the volume of groundwater in the Great Lakes watershed is comparable to the volume of Lake Huron.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Today on Stateside, a former Environmental Protection Agency advisor, along with hundreds of of other former EPA employees, are speaking out against the Trump administration's plan to weaken national fuel economy standards. Plus, Detroit Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff on his new book Sh*tshow: The Country's Collapsing... and the Ratings are Great. 

ford field
meesh / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Today on Stateside, a Michigan official responds to the controversy surrounding Wisconsin’s quiet approval of a 2010 request to divert nearly 11 million gallons of Great Lakes water per day. Plus, a comic book that explores the repatriation of Native American remains and the relationship between indigenous tribes and museums.

Wixom, MI

A company in Wixom has set a new record for PFAS, and it's not the kind of record to be proud of. 

A state test found 5,500 parts per trillion of PFAS in Norton Creek in Oakland County -- more than 450 times what's allowed in surface water. 

The chemicals have been traced to Tribar Manufacturing, which makes chrome-plated car parts. 

Laura Rubin is head of the Huron River Watershed Council. She says PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in Michigan.

album cover of space odyssey soundtrack
User Per-Olof Forsberg / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Today on Stateside, why a large diversion of Lake Michigan water approved by the state of Wisconsin in 2010 is drawing new scrutiny. Plus, ringing in the first weekend of fall with a Michigan version of a tropical cocktail.  

Lara Moehlman / Michigan Radio

Drinking water has been shut off in Detroit's public schools after voluntary tests found elevated lead and copper levels in 57 of 86 schools tested.

Officials believe these elevated levels are due to aging pipes and fixtures.

But, as Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith has learned, this isn't completely unexpected for any city as old as Detroit:

Michigan Radio will make changes to its environmental coverage beginning in October. 

The Environment Report, which has explored the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan for nearly twenty years, will no longer air at fixed times on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Two years ago, residents of Alden Village, a small subdivision directly east of Ford Motor Company's Livonia Transmission, got a letter from the automaker.

It was not good news.

A map shows dots representing anchor supports scattered along two pipelines located beneath open water.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Earlier this year, Enbridge applied for a permit to add 48 new anchor supports to its twin oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Justin Kasper, associate professor in the department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, tells us what’s causing tonight’s northern lights display in Michigan.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Riding a bike to work might be good for the environment, but automobile drivers are still getting used to the idea of sharing the road. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Four years ago, the city of Toledo told more than 450,000 residents to immediately stop drinking water out of the tap. 

That's after a toxin called microcystin was detected in the water. The toxin came from a bloom of cyanobacteria that had surrounded the city's water intake in Lake Erie. 

The incident caused panic among some residents, hoarding of water, even fights at bottled water distribution sites - along with a lot of unwanted national media attention.

And it taught the city some hard lessons.

What happens to the water Toledo takes from Lake Erie

Municipal water treatment is a painstaking and complicated process.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

The state Legislature is back this week and Democrats want to see action on protecting people from chemicals in drinking water.

The term PFAS describes a family of chemicals that’s been used in things like fire-fighting foam. It’s been found in the water of communities all across the state. The chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.  

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The elk is an important Michigan symbol. It’s even on our state flag. But have you ever seen an elk in the wild in Michigan?  Did you even know there are elk in Michigan?

neighborhood
Brandon Jacoby / Unsplash

Past research has indicated that where you live can affect your health. But what factors go into that, and how do you know just how bad or good your neighborhood is for you health?

A meteoroid flew over I-75 Northbound in metro Detroit Tuesday night.
Mike Austin / YouTube

 


In January, there were sightings of a fireball in the sky over Southeast Michigan.

The following day, the United States Geological Survey confirmed it was a meteoroid which had exploded in the atmosphere.

At the time, the loud "boom" it caused was reported to register at 2.0 on the Richter scale, but for the USGS and NASA, it didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Two men in uniforms stand on a boat and a dock.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

Frustrated by what they say is inadequate information provided to them by Enbridge, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians sent their own tribal research vessel to the Straits of Mackinac on Thursday to take sonar imagery of the company’s Line 5 pipelines.

 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Starting Friday, a new water plant will begin treating contaminated groundwater near the old Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

The base was decommissioned in 1993. But man-made chemicals known as PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been slowly leaching into the neighboring community’s groundwater for decades.  

Stateside 8.30.2018

Aug 30, 2018

On Stateside today, Michigan tribal members and other activists plan to paddle the Mackinac Straits to protest Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline. Plus, why the language we use when talking about cancer matters. 

To hear individual conversations, click here or see below: 

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