Residents Want Tighter Restrictions On Allowable PFAS Levels
January 15, 2020
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) listened to public comment on proposed rules that will establish maximum levels of PFAS allowed in drinking water. EGLE held its second of 3 public hearings on the proposed rules that will set maximum contaminant levels, or MCL, of 7 compounds of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in consumable water, in Ann Arbor, last night. PFAS is a “forever chemical” that doesn’t break down and has been used in manufacturing, in the production of many common household cleaning items, and firefighting foam, dating back 70 years. It can cause cancer, thyroid issues, and other adverse health issues over time.
The hearing opened with a breakdown of proposed MCL numbers spanning from 6 parts per trillion to 400,000 parts per trillion, depending on the compound. It also establishes requirements to notify the public if results are above the drinking water standard, and sets testing timelines. EGLE’s Eric Oswald said that not every community will be required to test. He said out of roughly 10,000 water systems in the state, these rules will apply to about 1,400 municipalities where levels have been detected, and another 1,300 non-transient non-community water supplies like schools.
Roughly 40 people voiced their opinions at the hearing. Nearly all thanked EGLE and Governor Gretchen Whitmore for their work, but most everybody wanted more from the plan, like Andrea Wotan. Wotan asked for the limits to be cut in half and said that she “thinks it’s time in this country, and quite frankly, the world, that we have a zero-tolerance policy for contaminants in our most vital resources, like water. Every single one of us here today,” she continued, “can live without the products that are produced by companies and industries that use PFAS and then emit it into our system, but we cannot live without water.”
Anthony Spaniola came to the event from Oscoda, where high levels of PFAS have been identified. He said, “I just want to remind everyone we’re not talking about an academic exercise, we’re talking about human beings. Come and see and visit my friends in Oscoda, in Ann Arbor… People around the state and the country that I talk to have been exposed to this for decades. We can’t afford to continue to play Russian roulette with future generations and it’s important that we not stop here with these rules, and continue to push forward. And do what the European Union is doing and phase these chemicals out completely.”
Stricter limits were a common request, along with added protections for the most vulnerable, like pregnant mothers, fetuses, young children, the sick, and the elderly. Many also wanted combined level limits- not just individual compound limits, and for it to be denoted as a class as there are roughly 4,700 types of PFAS.
Another common request was for the companies responsible for polluting the lakes and rivers to be the ones paying for treatment. As for costs, Oswald shared conservative estimates of $11-million for treatment installation where needed, with operations and maintenance costing those municipalities $326,000 per year.
EGLE’s third and final public hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, in Roscommon.
EGLE is accepting further comment by email until 5pm on January 31st. Remarks can be sent to EGLE-PFAS-RuleMaking@Michigan.gov.
For more information on the PFAS Action Response Team, visit www.Michigan.gov/PFASResponse.
Visit the EGLE Community Water Supply Rule Promulgation site at www.Michigan.gov/DrinkingWater, and select the Community Water Supply Page. (MK)