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Environment & Climate Change
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, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances.PFAS is a family of chemicals that can be found in all sorts of products. But what are the lingering effects of PFAS on our health and the environment?

Environmental group hopeful Congress will require and fund PFAS cleanups

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Lester Graham
/
Michigan Radio

A U.S. House Committee will be taking up the National Defense Authorization Act. An environmental group is hoping it includes funding and deadlines for the Department of Defense to clean up PFAS pollution.

At least six current or former military bases in the Great Lakes region are confirmed to have PFAS-contaminated groundwater. Three of those sites are in Michigan: the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, and Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

All of the sites were contaminated with a PFAS-based fire fighting foam. It’s gotten into groundwater, drinking wells, rivers, and lakes.

Jared Hayes is with the Environmental Working Group. He says as contaminated water and fish enter the Great Lakes, the problem gets bigger.

“The water is all connected and PFAS is highly mobile. When it gets into the Great Lakes, it enters the fish population and that travels around,” said Jared Hayes with the Environmental Working Group.

He says as contaminated water and fish enter the Great Lakes, the problem gets bigger.

Congress is working on the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

“There is proposed funding to a lot of the different branches to be able to provide hundred of millions of dollars for cleanup. And so, if we can get that through, they can actually start taking prioritized action,” Hayes said.

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee’s version includes deadlines for PFAS testing, but not for cleanups. In the House, Republican Representative Michael Turner of Ohio and Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan have introduced legislation to address PFAS contamination at Department of Defense sites. Further amendments concerning PFAS contamination at military sites are expected to be proposed for the House version.

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