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Politics & Government

Michigan is asking state's fire departments about their use of PFAS foam

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Michigan wants to know which of the state's fire departments have used or are holding fire suppression foam that was made with a family of chemicals known as PFAS.

State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer is surveying more than 1,000 fire departments across the state. That's because some PFAS foams used for fighting fuel fires could be the source of contamination found in groundwater in some Michigan communities.

"We're really focused on where is it? Do you still have it, and if you still have it, how do we get it replaced?" said Sehlmeyer. "But not only replace it, then we want to make sure it's disposed of properly."

"The foam that's being produced today in the United States for the United States fire service to use does not have PFAS in it," said Sehlmeyer. "The main thing that we're concerned about is the fact that we know that  with a 20, 25-year shelf life and because it's very expensive to purchase, there's potentially departments that have stuff sitting on shelves in their stations. We need to determine how much is out there so that we can dispose of it safely so it doesn't affect the environment."

Sehlmeyer said the survey also asks where fire departments have used PFAS foam at past emergency incidents. He said that will help the state plan environmental cleanup efforts.

The survey is a joint effort of Sehlmeyer and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART),  established by Governor Rick Snyder in November, 2017 to create a coordinated response to address the potential health and environmental effects of PFAS in Michigan.

PFAS is an emerging group of chemicals used in many kinds of products. Studies have linked some of the compounds to reproductive, developmental, liver and kidney problems in lab animals.