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Q&A with EGLE’s MPART executive director

Abigail Hendershott headshot(Today’s MI Environment story features a Q&A with Abigail Hendershott, executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team and is from the 2021 State of the Great Lakes report.)

The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) has been at the national forefront in dealing with PFAS in drinking water. What has MPART done to sample for drinking water supplies that rely on the Great Lakes

In 2018, MPART began sampling public drinking water supplies throughout the state, including supplies that use surface waters – streams and lakes including the Great Lakes – for their water. In 2019, six monthly samples were taken at public water supplies that use surface waters as a source of drinking water. Any anomalies found during the sampling effort resulted in more frequent and rigorous sampling. For 2021, these supplies have been sampled every other month, with this sampling continuing through the end of the year. Results from all sampling efforts are on the MPART website on the Drinking Water tab, Statewide Testing Initiative.

How is MPART working with other Great Lakes states and provinces to address this issue on a regional and binational scale?

EGLE is participating in the Great Lakes PFAS Task Force, which is a multi-state collaborative effort to share information about PFAS and what states are doing to address PFAS in various media. There are three groups that are part of the Great Lakes PFAS Task Force: Group 1 involves state environmental directors; Group 2 involves state operations managers; and Group 3 consists of several topical workgroups. Within this task force, topics such as foam, air, water and site investigations are discussed at several levels in state governments and Ontario.

What actions has MPART taken to reduce PFAS in Great Lakes waters?

As of August 2, 2021, EGLE had identified over 175 sites where groundwater is contaminated with PFAS at levels exceeding groundwater cleanup criteria. Some of these sites discharge to inland surface waters that connect to the Great Lakes. EGLE has established water quality standards for PFOS and PFOA used to regulate sources of PFAS discharging to surface water, including industrial sources, wastewater treatment plants, storm water discharges and contaminated groundwater discharging to surface waters. EGLE implemented an Industrial Pretreatment Program PFAS Initiative in 2018 to reduce PFAS concentrations entering wastewater treatment plants and passing through to biosolids.

What’s next in the effort to address PFAS in Michigan?

MPART’s primary focus will continue to be on protecting public health and looking for new sources of PFAS contamination to groundwater. Ongoing surface water and fish sampling will be conducted throughout the state to study the occurrence of PFAS; data is used to track down potential sources of PFAS. As new PFAS contaminated sites are discovered, MPART will work with partners to evaluate health risks to nearby residential wells and provide filters or alternative water when necessary. Monitoring public drinking water supplies will continue by tracking compliance monitoring under the State Drinking Water Act. More specialized projects will include initiating a second round of firefighting foam pickup and disposal, developing a PFAS training video for firefighters, prioritizing fire training areas that are on private wells and sampling medium priority landfills.

Caption: MPART Executive Director Abigail Hendershott