By: Max Gouin
Summary: On February 27th, the Environmental Rules Review Committee voted to establish a draft of regulations that would implement enforceable standards on the levels of toxic fluorochemicals, known as PFAS, found in Michigan’s public water supplies. PFAS has been found at varying levels in different water systems, serving more than 1.9 million Michiganders. With these new regulations in place, around 2,700 water supplies in the state would establish sampling for PFAS chemicals, public notification, and laboratory certification of public supplies serving more than twenty-five people. Michigan state officials began drafting maximum contaminant levels for seven PFAS compounds in order to establish safe levels across the state. These new maximum contaminant levels are measured at parts per trillion (ppt) and include PFNA at 6 ppt, PFOA at 8 ppt, PFOS at 16 ppt, PFHxS at 51 ppt, GenX at 370 ppt, PFBS at 420 ppt, and PFHxA at 400,000 ppt. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hopes to have these new standards in place by the end of April.
If these new rules are adopted, this will be the first time that Michigan has developed its own drinking water standards. Water regulations are usually put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a Federal level and adopted by individual states. In this case, many states feel that the EPA is not moving at a fast enough pace for such an important issue. On February 20th, the EPA announced a preliminary determination stating that the agency planned to regulate just two of the harmful PFAS chemicals found in drinking water, PFOS and PFOA. Even if the EPA decides to move forward with these rule making, the process is expected to take several more years. Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said “We can no longer wait for the federal government to act, which is why I directed EGLE to establish PFAS drinking water standards to protect Michiganders. Moving forward with the rulemaking process moves us one step closer toward building public confidence and achieving real solutions that ensure every Michigander can safely bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table."
Why we should care? The harmful PFAS chemicals found in the drinking water of more than a million Michiganders can have detrimental effects on their health.
This news article, written by Garret Ellison, provides an in-depth view of the issues surrounding the PFAS chemicals contaminating Michigan’s public waters. I found this particular article interesting because it was one of the few I found that went in depth on all aspects of the topic. Many of the others I had read only described Governor Whitmer’s views. Ellison first describes the reasoning behind the new regulations, along with the groups involved in making these regulations. He then lists the harmful affects of the chemicals along with Michigan’s reasoning for moving forward at a state level, instead of following the lead of the EPA. Overall, I felt that this article was the most informative.
Science in Action.
Steve Silver is the executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).
Silver and his team traveled the state testing the water systems of communities, schools, child care providers, and tribunal lands for any amount of these dangerous chemicals. While 90% of the water systems showed no levels of PFAS contamination, roughly 7% had shown levels below 10 parts per trillion (ppt). While a majority of Michigan’s communities had clean water, 3% of the water tested had PFAS levels between 10 ppt and 70 ppt. Two locations in the state, the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School, had dangerously high levels of PFOA and PFOS. These test levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) safety standards at over 70 ppt. Steve Silver said, “This first-in-the-nation study of all public water systems in the state resulted in 3,500 people in Parchment and Robinson Township being protected from high levels of previously unknown PFAS contamination in their drinking water last year”. Without the research of Steve Silver and MPART, many more of Michigan’s residents would have their health negatively affected by these contaminants. Research has shown that PFAS contamination severely affects infants and older children. By conducting these tests and finding dangerously high levels of PFAS at Robinson Elementary School, the health of hundreds of children were protected.