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$23.2 Million Could Go Toward Combating PFAS Contamination

Dec 14, 2017

Water Faucet
Credit Environmental Protection Agency / epa.gov

Money might be on the way to help fight perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in Michigan. 

PFAS is a family of chemicals that’s been discovered in groundwater in 14 communities, and 28 sites, across the state.  PFAS chemicals are used in things like flame retardants, cleaning products, and food packaging.

Sue Leeming is the Deputy Director in the Office of External Relations for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  She said dealing with PFAS has been a challenge because it’s an emerging contaminant. 

“We don’t know specifically what health impacts there might be,” she said.  “We’re still doing the research to determine the toxicity levels of a number of the other chemicals in this family.  So there’s a lot of unknowns.”

The money will be used toward cleanups and testing.  Right now, there isn’t a lab in the state that can test for PFAS, so it’s been outsourced to other states, which takes longer to get results.

Leeming said the money will, “help the state to continue to address the situation state-wide.”

The federal government has a health advisory for PFAS in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion.  Some areas in Michigan have tests showing PFAS in the thousands of parts per trillion. 

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard says this isn’t an issue that is going away.

“There’s a very good chance that we’re going to have to appropriate more dollars to this,” he said.  “But right now we didn’t want to just throw money at the problem, we wanted to ensure that we’re getting out in front of it.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org