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Clean Water Groups Praise State’s Move to Regulate PFAS in Water

Michigan does not currently set a standard for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, but the state is working on it. (Earl53/Morguefile)
Michigan does not currently set a standard for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, but the state is working on it. (Earl53/Morguefile)
March 28, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – Clean water groups are cheering Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's move toward a health-based drinking water standard for toxic chemicals known as PFAS.

She ordered the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team to do a new review of the science around exposure to the chemicals, and instructed the Department of Environmental Quality to begin the rule-making process.

Anthony Spaniola, a member of the group Need Our Water in Oscoda, says PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, used to be found in many common products and has now leached into groundwater at detectable levels in some places.

"It comes from the use of firefighting foam, but also in just a number of everyday household products like Teflon, Scotchgard, dental floss,” Spaniola points out. “It's been used in food wrappers. It's ubiquitous."

Oscoda, for example, is near Wurtsmith Air Force Base, where firefighting foam with PFAS was used for years.

Many companies have stopped using PFAS, and the Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals are no longer manufactured in the U.S.

But the EPA warns PFAS can still be found in many imported products that are nonstick or waterproof.

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends a national drinking water standard for PFAS of less than one part per trillion.

But the EPA only has a non-enforceable advisory guideline that recommends a level 70 times higher.

Spaniola says PFAS are dangerous and can linger in the human body for 40 to 60 years.

"PFAS chemicals have been linked in human beings to ulcerative colitis, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, immunological disorders, even high cholesterol," he points out.

The State of Michigan's goal is to propose its new maximum contaminant level by July 1, and start taking public comment on Oct. 1.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI