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PFAS

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, that senators finished writing this past weekend, would include $10 billion for PFAS cleanup.

PFAS—or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—are a family of chemicals often called "forever chemicals" because they can persist in the environment for centuries. Exposure to certain kinds of PFAS has been linked to impaired immune systems and increased risk of some kinds of cancer.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

The U.S. House has approved a comprehensive bill to regulate and control a class of chemicals known as PFAS.

The bill would require the U.S. EPA to designate two of the most common PFAS as hazardous substances.

It would also require the EPA to set a national drinking water standard for those two chemicals -- and study whether other PFAS should be added later.

Rebecca Meuninck is with the Ecology Center.

She said the bill will go far to help Michiganders and people all over the country protect themselves from the health risks of PFAS. 

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A collection of Michigan environmental groups said Thursday that they had formed a coalition aimed at reducing the harmful effects of a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The Sarah Elizabeth Ray House
The Sarah E. Ray Project

Today on Stateside, we talk to a researcher who found that the forever chemicals known as PFAS are showing up in rainfall around the Great Lakes. Then, what families should know about kids and COVID-19 as summer vacation begins. And, an effort to save the historical home of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, the Detroit civil rights activist whose U.S. Supreme Court case led to the integration of the Boblo Island ferry. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate will be considering two bills to clean up PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) at military installations. The ‘Filthy Fifty Act’ prioritizes 50 military bases for remediation, including two in Michigan: the former Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette County and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda Township.

If you buy some kinds of bagged fertilizer for your garden, you might be getting more than you want.

The Ecology Center and Sierra Club sampled different kinds of fertilizers made from biosolids. That’s the sludge left at a wastewater treatment plant after water is cleaned up. Almost all of them had PFAS compounds in them.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There are a lot of ideas about how the State of Michigan should spend federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. An environmental group thinks one of the top priorities is cleaning up water.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Today on Stateside, why one maker of PFAS chemicals is challenging Michigan’s protections for drinking water. Plus, an international standoff is brewing over Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil pipeline. And, two Beaver Island residents send out a radio program from the middle of Lake Michigan.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Minnesota-based company 3M is suing the state of Michigan over its regulations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or the PFAS family of chemicals. Michigan's regulations on PFAS in drinking water were finalized in August 2020, and are among the most stringent in the country.

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan put in place drinking water standards for the chemical family of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in August 2020. Those are among the most stringent in the country.

Nearly eight months later, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says it's been seeing a lot of success in getting public water systems in compliance with the new rules. Michigan has roughly 2,700 public water works, and EGLE reports that most of those systems are in compliance.

MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY / FLICKR HTTP://BIT.LY/1XMSZCG

Michigan members of Congress are once again pushing legislation to speed the cleanup of sites contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS are a family of industrial chemicals linked to serious human health problems. PFAS can be found in a variety of commercially-produced products, ranging from housewares to firefighting foam.

The Environmental Working Group says there are 2,337 PFAS contamination sites in 49 States. There are 162 sites in Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

It appears the United States Air Force is in no hurry to abide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request to use Michigan’s standards for cleaning up PFAS contamination at a former Air Force base.

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

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is hoping that a federal law will be able to help speed up Department of Defense cooperation with cleaning up contamination from per- and polyfluoralalkyl sybstances, or PFAS, in Oscoda Township near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

In 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act included section 332. It allows a governor to request changes or an entirely new cooperative agreement over remediation at sites by PFAS as a result of DOD activities.

“PFAS in the House” was produced by Great Lakes Now/Detroit Public TV, in partnership with Type Investigations.

After spending several months reporting on the PFAS crisis, an alarming realization hit — taco night might be poisoning me.

I learned that the type of nonstick pans that I used to fry the fish usually contain the toxic chemicals, also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Research alerted me to their use in some types of parchment paper used to roll tortillas, while the aluminum foil in which I wrapped leftovers raised a red flag with its “nonstick” label. For dessert, I purchased cookies that a local bakery packed in the type of paper bags sometimes treated with PFAS, and the chemicals may have been in my tap water and fish.

PFAS is in fish and wildlife. Researchers prowl Michigan for clues.

Feb 16, 2021
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

J.D. Hock’s heart sank in 2018, when the state of Michigan warned it was unsafe to eat deer harvested within a five-mile radius of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township.

For decades, his family had hunted on property just outside the “do not eat” zone. He had just mailed “an insane amount” of venison jerky to his son-in-law, an armed service member in Afghanistan.

Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin talks to voters at a town hall in Hartland in 2019, justifying the first formal impeachment inquiry into former President Donald Trump..
Tyler Scott

Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin said in a speech Wednesday evening that some of the biggest threats facing her Michigan constituents are domestic terrorism, environmental health, and the pandemic.

Slotkin said toxic political division in the U.S. fans the flames of violence and extremism – like the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In her second State of the District address, presented virtually, Slotkin urged people to find political common ground with their neighbors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan members of Congress are pressing the Biden administration to do more to address PFAS contamination.

PFAS are a family of industrial chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of human health problems. 

A letter from the Congressional PFAS Task Force is asking for, among other things, the creation of a new national drinking water standard for PFAS.

The task force also wants more cooperation from federal agencies. 

Courtesy: Ecology Center

A Michigan-based environmental group has found many nonstick pans are coated with a chemical from the PFAS family.

“We suspected that a lot of pans that say nonstick would be coated with PTFE without saying so on their packaging. And that was one of the findings of this investigation. That Teflon-type coatings, the same polymer, are very common on nonstick cookware. But, it’s very hard to tell from the packaging you see in the store,” said Gillian Miller, senior scientist with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.


A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is signing up eligible residents of four West Michigan communities for a study of the potential long term health impacts of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The study is called the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS).

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Biden campaign platform promises to designate some chemicals in the PFAS family as hazardous substances. That’s something the Trump administration also promised. The EPA completed recommendations more than a year ago and nothing has happened. One report suggests the White House might be holding up those recommendations.

BRYCE HUFFMAN / Michigan Radio

Michigan health officials plan to study the potential long-term health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure on people in four West Michigan communities.

PFAS are a class of industrial chemicals linked to health problems like cancer, and thyroid disease. Known as “forever chemicals” that remain intact in the environment and human bodies for a long time, PFAS are present in substances ranging from firefighting foam to food packaging.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One chemical in the PFAS family is showing up more often and in greater concentrations in fish.

The PFAS chemical is PFOS.

Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Surface water levels of PFAS chemicals have plummeted in a creek that flows into the Huron River, after a state investigation.  

Investigators went upstream from Ann Arbor to try to discover the source or sources after PFAS chemicals showed up in the city's treated drinking water in 2018. 

A main source was discovered to be the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was discharging PFAS-laden effluent from Tribar Manufacturing, a plating company, into Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River. 

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

New legislation in the Michigan Senate would increase the timeframe during which legal action could be taken against polluters in Michigan.

Under current state law, the clock on when legal action can be taken starts ticking at the moment pollution occurs.

firefighting foam
Adobe Stock

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed lawsuits against nearly three dozen companies that make firefighting foams, known in the industry as AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam.

AFFF contains PFAS, a family of chemicals used in many industries, including the firefighting industry. They can persist in the environment for hundreds of years and even longer, and build up in the tissues of fish, animals and humans. PFAS are also linked to illnesses including cancer. 

Adobe Stock

Legislation soon will be introduced in Michigan to ban food packaging that contains toxic chemicals such as PFAS, bisphenols, or phthalates.

Some restaurants stopped using packaging containing PFAS, but some of the biggest chains still do.

State Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) says it’s time to stop.

Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s new PFAS drinking water standards went into effect this week. The restrictions include seven more common chemicals from the PFAS family. Michigan's regulations are among the strictest in the U.S.

Liesl Clark is the Director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She says the state continues to search for the sources of the toxic chemicals in the state. Recently 38 new contaminated sites were identified.

Former Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda, Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Air Force met with Oscoda residents on Wednesday to discuss plans for how they'll use millions of dollars earmarked for cleanup of the former Wurtsmith Air Force base.

The former airbase has been a known source of PFAs pollution for nearly 10 years, leading to “do not eat” advisories for local wildlife and warnings posted around the local lake.

PFAs are a family of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems found at sites across the state, including at Wurtsmith.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Michigan congressman wants to see the United States Air Force focus more on cleaning up PFAS contamination at a former Air Force base in northern Michigan.

Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) says there's been too much focus on studying the problem.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan firefighters have new rules for when they use firefighting foam containing industrial chemicals known as PFAS.

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