PFAS | Michigan Radio
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PFAS

Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Has Attorney General Bill Schuette done enough to fight PFAS contamination in Michigan? Some people don’t think so.

Tracy Breihof, a Belmont resident who lives near the Wolverine Worldwide House Street PFAS dump site, spoke at an event on Wednesday organized by the Michigan Democratic Party. She says PFAS doesn’t seem to be a priority for Schuette.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Water activists say the candidates for governor in Michigan are not proposing bold enough plans to fix the state’s water problems.

Activists gathered in Flint to mark “Imagine a Day without Water." The city has become a poster child for Michigan’s issues with everything from tainted tap water to unaffordable bills.

Monica Lewis-Patrick is the president of “We the People of Detroit.” She lays the blame for Michigan’s water issues on outgoing Governor Rick Snyder.

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.

Federal, state, and local officials sitting at a roundtable meeting
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Officials from the EPA, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services met in Kalamazoo to discuss PFAS chemicals, but only a handful of selected speakers could ask questions and share their thoughts.

Many of the speakers, including officials from Ann Arbor, Parchment, and Oscoda, want the EPA and other federal agencies to move faster to solve the issue.

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.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State House Democrats have sent a letter asking the state auditor to investigate the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of the state’s PFAS problem. 

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals linked to human health problems.

State Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) hopes the state auditor can find answers.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

The EPA is keeping its promise to Michigan residents by holding a meeting in Kalamazoo on Friday to talk about PFAS contamination, but it’s not the meeting residents expected.

For starters, there won’t be a public comment period at the meeting, which will be held from 1-3 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Expo Center on Friday.

Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids
Photo courtesy of the Gerald R Ford International Airport

Congress has passed legislation to allow airports to stop using foam containing PFAS chemicals.

Under current law, commercial airports must use firefighting foam that contains toxic chemicals known as PFAS. However, Congress wants that to change.

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.

The Michigan Department of Environmental
Ben Thorp / Michigan Radio

State environmental officials are using infrared drone monitoring for the first time to help identify the source of PFAS contamination in Crawford County.

The Grayling Army Airfield is one of 35 sites with confirmed PFAS contamination the state is monitoring. PFAS are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems. 

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.

Bird electric scooter
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, why the auto industry is breathing "a sigh of relief" after President Trump announced the trilateral trade deal that will replace NAFTA. Plus, an Oscoda resident shares his experience of being affected by PFAS contamination, kicking off Michigan Radio's week-long series on contamination by the chemicals across the state.    

DEQ map of Parchment
MDEQ

The state will get help from Georgia-Pacific to help investigate the source of PFAS contamination in the city of Parchment.

The Department of Environmental Quality says Georgia-Pacific never owned or operated the paper mill in Parchment near Kalamazoo. But the company has a corporate relationship with the mill’s former owners.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow want to help veterans who were exposed to industrial chemicals known as PFAS.

That’s why they introduced legislation September 28 to help those veterans and their families get the healthcare they need.

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.

U.S. Senate chamber
US Senate

More than 20 Michigan residents attended a U.S. Senate hearing on PFAS chemicals in Washington D.C. Wednesday.

Michigan Senator Gary Peters, who convened the hearing, has asked for faster action from the federal government to clean up groundwater that's contaminated by the chemicals.

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.

PFAS firefighting foams are still in use across Michigan

Sep 14, 2018
firefighter
U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals are a major source of water contamination. But fire departments around Michigan are still using them. Kevin Sehlmeyer is the State Fire Marshal. 

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.  

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.  

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority has been awarded a $60,000 grant to investigate chemical contaminants.

The airport, which is on the site of the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, is a known site of several chemical contaminants, including PFAs - which are linked to cancer among other maladies.

drinking fountain
Pixabay

As Michigan children return to school, the state still has yet to complete testing to determine if there are contaminants in their drinking water.

For months a special task force has been testing school and municipal water systems for PFAS, a manufactured chemical linked to numerous health problems including cancer.

the flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 


Yesterday, MLive's Ron Fonger published a story detailing what the state knew about PFAS levels in the Flint River before the city switched its water source. 

The Flint River.
Sarah Razak / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

In the spring of 2014, Flint's water source was switched to the Flint River.

We know what happened when that untreated water leached lead from aging pipes, but in his story today for MLive, Flint journalist Ron Fonger revealed that before the water switch even happened, the state tested the Flint River and discovered rising levels of PFAS contamination. 

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Parchment and Cooper Township residents can now safely drink their water. That’s what state and local officials are saying after water tests found PFAS levels were well below the advisory level.

Last month the state declared a State of Emergency in Parchment, a city near Kalamazoo, after high levels of chemicals known as PFAS were found in its water system.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) would like to see legislative hearings this fall into a report that state officials were aware of high PFAS levels detected in the Flint River before the city of Flint starting using it as its drinking water source.

MLive.com reports, while state officials were aware of the test results, they did not appear to inform Flint city leaders.

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

The growing PFAS crisis, and the federal government's role in it, will be the subject of a Congressional subcommittee hearing next month.

PFAS are an emerging chemical contaminant that have been found at multiple sites across the state and are linked to health problems including cancer.

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