The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy recently announced that most of the 2,700 municipal and other large drinking water systems are meeting the state's new standards limiting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in public drinking water supplies.
The new standards -- among the most stringent and comprehensive PFAS standards in the nation -- were adopted in August 2020. The provisions include establishing drinking water standards, sampling requirement, public notification requirements and laboratory certification criteria.
The goal is to reduce exposure to seven PFAS compounds in drinking water. PFAS exposure can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. The most-studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS, which can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals.
"Even before Michigan adopted these new rules, we started working with the systems that we suspected would be out of compliance based on our past water testing data and also began expanding our testing program to identify other potential supplies that could find themselves out of compliance," said Abigail Hendershott, executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). "Over the course of the past nine months, EGLE staff have analyzed testing data and worked with these supplies on solutions. More than half now meet standards and we are continuing to work with the handful of remaining systems to bring them into compliance."
EGLE has also received testing data from 85 percent of the 1,299 smaller non-community, non-transient water supplies in the state. EGLE staff are currently working with one village, a mobile home park, and nine of the other non-community supplies to explore short- and long-term solutions to achieve compliance with the PFAS rules.
Through established MPART partnerships, EGLE is working closely with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local health departments to establish short-term measures on a case-by-case basis, based on risk, to address the health and safety of the consumers of water for these supplies. Long-term solutions include connections to nearby municipal water supplies, new wells and treatment systems, and grant funding under the state's $500 million MI Clean Water plan to modernize water infrastructure.
Most are not in violation based on this first round of test results under the new rules because compliance under the standards is based on a running average of the four previous quarterly sampling results. A system whose average result over four consecutive quarters is above any of the PFAS drinking standards is considered out of compliance. All systems are proactively working toward compliance with EGLE and have implemented interim solutions to protect customers while the issues are addressed.
An exceedance of new PFAS standards after four quarters of tests averaging above the criteria would require systems to issue a public notice with mandatory health effect language within 30 days. Community water supplies must also report PFAS standard violations in their consumer confidence reports.
EGLE is posting data for drinking water systems still working toward compliance on the MPART website.
Drinking water systems demonstrating consistent non-detections for the seven regulated PFAS compounds can eventually move to annual testing for the compounds.
Given the progress made to achieve compliance so far, EGLE does not plan to immediately issue fines for non-compliance during the first year of the new rules. To help systems reach compliance, EGLE will enter into Administrative Consent Orders (ACO) with drinking water systems establishing a timeline for achieving compliance. The ACOs will also stipulate fines if compliance deadlines are missed.
Photo caption: PFAS samples in test tubes at EGLE lab.