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State Takes Action to Strengthen Environmental Criteria in Response to PFAS Contamination

Michigan sets new standard of 70 parts per trillion, mirroring federal advisory level

LANSING - Today the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced it has developed a drinking water criterion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).  The residential and nonresidential drinking water criterion is 0.07 μg/L (70 parts per trillion) for the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS, which sets an official state standard for acceptable concentrations of these contaminants in ground water used for drinking water purposes.

This combined criterion will take effect January 10, 2018. Previously there has been no level set in state criteria.

“This new standard allows us to take regulatory enforcement actions, something we have not been able to do absent a state criterion.” said Heidi Grether, DEQ director. “This means we will now have tools to mandate a responsible party conduct activities to address PFOA and PFOS contamination, thereby reducing risk to human health and the environment.”

With the new criterion, the department can now issue violation notices and take legal action against any responsible party who doesn’t comply with the state’s clean up rules.

“Our philosophy is that we expect responsible parties to voluntarily comply with state clean up criteria, which is why we work in close collaboration with them to help bring them into compliance,” said Grether.  “This rule update allows us the proper enforcement tools to ensure state law is met on the occasion that we need them, should compliance become a challenge.”

The legal basis for development of the generic cleanup criteria is Part 201, Environmental Remediation, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, and the Part 201 administrative rules. Rule provisions [R 299.6(9) et al] allow the department to determine that a substance not listed in the generic cleanup criteria tables is a hazardous substance using best available information about toxicological and physical-chemical properties of the substance, and to use that information to develop a generic criterion. The new criterion developed pursuant to these rules take effect when published and announced by the MDEQ. 

The PFOA and PFOS drinking water criterion is set at the lifetime health advisory value presented in the United States Environmental Protection Agency Drinking Water Health Advisories for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), EPA 822-R-16-005, May 2016 and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), EPA 822-R-16-004, May 2016. Compliance with the drinking water criterion requires comparing the sum of the PFOA and PFOS groundwater concentrations to the drinking water criterion of 0.07 μg/L. The drinking water criterion for PFOA and PFOS protect for both short-term developmental and chronic exposures.

Last fall Governor Snyder issued Executive Directive 2017-4 creating the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team MPART) to address the need for cooperation and coordination among agencies at all levels of government charged with identifying PFAS contamination, informing and empowering the public, and mitigating the potential effects. Particularly in view of the current lack of nationwide best practices, the directive serves to set a strategic and proactive approach for the state with this emerging contaminant.  The MDEQ has been a key agency in the discovery and investigation of PFAS sites around the state with the goal of mitigating potential risk to public health and identifying immediate and long-term solutions to this issue.

“While PFAS is a national issue, we are determined to continue studying this emerging science until we are assured that Michigan’s communities are safe from this contaminant,” said Grether.