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EGLE Director: Michigan solidifies its reputation as a leader in response to PFAS
December 15, 2021
The Virtual PFAS Summit, with over 1,300 participants representing 38 states and eight countries in, has solidified Michigan's reputation as a leader in its response to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances - PFAS. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in making things like firefighting foam, stain repellants, and non-stick cookware. PFAS can't break down easily in the environment and some build-up in our bodies. MI Environment today includes an excerpt from EGLE Director Liesl Clark's comments to the Summit's opening session.
"It is no surprise to me that Michigan has led the nation in responding to PFAS because when something impacts our water it strikes a nerve in our state and inspires action that crosses ideological, geographic, political and other divides.
"That is evident every day in the State of Michigan's response to PFAS contamination.
"If you look at a national map of PFAS hot spots, Michigan stands out. This does not mean we are more contaminated than our neighbors or the rest of the nation. It is a function of Michigan proactively and comprehensively looking for contamination with an eye toward protecting public health.
"We have found PFAS in every part of our state-at military installations, landfills, industrial sites, airports, and many other locations. We are currently investigating many of the thousands more potential sites.
"Last year at this time, Michigan had 148 documented sites where groundwater contamination exceeded our cleanup criteria for PFAS. Michigan has identified 193 "MPART" (Michigan PFAS Action Response Team) sites. Michigan also has 13 Areas of Interest which are areas where we don't have a monitoring well over groundwater cleanup criteria but where there is a lot of interest - usually involving residential well sampling.
"The numbers tell the story of Michigan's massive response to PFAS. The MPART team recently put together the numbers that summarize Michigan's PFAS response activities for our 2021 fiscal year.
"In that 12-month period alone, MPART led our state in:
- Collecting 723 water samples from lakes and streams-and 878 fish-for PFAS analysis. That is 155 more surface water samples than 2020 and 364 more fish than 2020.
- Monitoring PFAS levels in our 2,700 public water supplies under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Sampling 440 residential wells and resampling 1,682 residential wells previously investigated for PFAS.
- Providing 157 filter systems and 490 replacement cartridges to Michigan households.
- Awarding grants and loans totaling more than $18 million for infrastructure projects specifically designed to address PFAS.
- Recruiting 1,300 residents to participate in the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Assessment Study (MiPEHS) and 7 fire departments to participate in the PFAS in Firefighters in Michigan (PFOMs) project.
- Taking 165 biosolids samples from 157 wastewater treatment plants, and sampling the influent, effluent and sludge at 44 wastewater treatment plants.
- Sampling 28 permitted dischargers and conducting inspections at 28 industrial sources to pinpoint the source of PFAS.
- Implementing PFAS testing at 19 airports.
- Maintaining one of the most robust PFAS web sites in the country and adding layers of data for public use.
"As we move into 2022, Michigan will continue to look for new sites, conduct precautionary sampling of residential wells around likely MPART sites, and launch innovative programs.
"We will continue to ramp up our recent focus on airports and firefighting. We will continue to survey Michigan airports and investigate those that have used AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), including sampling any residential wells that are nearby. We will also conduct investigations at fire training centers and finalize a firefighter training video intended to help reduce the use of class B AFFF.
"As we head into the new year, we also look forward to the support of the federal government on several fronts, including:
- Implementing the actions identified in the EPA PFAS Road Map. This strategy will help move the needle forward across the country.
- Providing millions of dollars for infrastructure projects so we can provide safe drinking water to the residents of Michigan. Despite the significant investments we have made recently in the state, we still have millions of dollars of unmet asks for grant funds to connect private wells at risk for PFAS to municipal water systems.
"We also are hopeful the federal government can hasten the pace in addressing PFAS at military sites.
"When we collaborate across geographic and political jurisdictions-and across professions, experiences, and fields of expertise -we develop the science behind PFAS more quickly, share the best practices in investigating and addressing public health risks more widely, and put the most creative and innovative solutions into action more comprehensively."
Caption: EGLE Director Liesl Clark addresses 2021 Virtual PFAS Summit.