State health officials have issued a new warning around a potentially harmful chemical found in the Huron River.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising residents to avoid swallowing foam from the Huron River, as it may contain Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The primary way to get the chemical that has been used for decades in firefighting, manufacturing and common household items is ingestion. The Health Department said in a release that accidental touching or swallowing is not a health concern, but they do recommend washing hands after coming into contact with foam to keep from transferring PFAS from your hands to your mouth. Skin contact alone with the foam is not a concern as the Health Department reports that science doesn’t indicate that PFAS moves easily through skin.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is recommending that people not allow their pets, especially dogs, to come into contact with, or swallow, the foam. Dogs could potentially swallow foam that collects in their fur when they groom themselves. The department suggests thoroughly rinsing pets off with fresh water after contact with foamy water. The recent advisory comes on the heels of last month’s “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for the river.

Livingston County Director of Environmental Health Matt Bolang made a presentation at Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting on status of testing being done.
82 drinking water supplies in the county are being monitored for P-FAS as part of surveillance efforts with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Bolang reported that 72 samples have been taken so far and of the 49 results to date, all came back as non-detected. Bolang said further board action would be pre-mature and while it is an issue of concern, they don’t have data to suggest there is an issue in groundwater. He says the state has been aggressive in its investigation but it’s not practical to sample every water source in the state. There is an option to privately test water sources.
Sue Kelly is vice chair of the Crossroads Group of the Sierra Club. She spoke at the meeting to reiterate the importance of continuing to investigate the P-FAS situation and make sure water is safe in Livingston County. Kelly told WHMI she’s disappointed that there wasn’t more concern on the part of the board or that they felt really compelled to get out there and get water tested - especially drinking water in local wells. She says most people are on private wells and they’re not testing any of those but feels they need to know. Kelly says it’s also important to keep reminding people they should not be fishing in the Huron River or Chain of Lakes. She says caution is really important right now and encourages people to contact commissioners, the local health department or state because there are so many questions, adding people need to keep asking questions.

More information on test results from the Huron River can be found through the link below. Additional information on the Eat Safe Fish guidelines can also be found at (MK)