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Michigan reaches two-year milestone as national leader in response to PFAS in drinking water
December 19, 2019
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced today it has passed the two-year mark in the state’s pioneering, multi-agency effort to protect Michiganders from PFAS in drinking water – an effort widely acknowledged as the most advanced and comprehensive in the nation.
Launched in November 2017, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) was established as a permanent part of EGLE by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through an Executive Order in February 2019.
“Since taking office, I’ve been committed to finding real solutions to clean up Michigan’s drinking water,” Gov. Whitmer said. “I’m proud to say that MPART has become a critical part of a system that is working toward protecting our water and improving public health. Since February, we have implemented action plans that further ensure the safety of Michigan’s land, air, and water. Looking ahead to next year, I’m encouraged that MPART will be continuing to find more effective and new ways to be more transparent with Michiganders. Michigan continues to be a leader in identifying and addressing PFAS contamination, in large part due to the work of the MPART coalition.”
In March, Gov. Whitmer directed EGLE to begin drafting rules creating strict limits on certain PFAS in drinking water. Working in collaboration with MPART’s science and health workgroups, EGLE submitted draft rules for seven PFAS compounds that are expected to be considered by the Legislature in 2020 following a public comment period and review by EGLE’s Environmental Regulatory Rules Committee.
“Michigan has drafted some of the nation’s most comprehensive rules for PFAS in drinking water and it marks an important milestone in our response to these contaminants,” MPART Executive Director Steve Sliver said. “Michigan’s pioneering work testing public water supplies and water treatment plants statewide has provided MPART with a roadmap to eliminate or reduce the public’s exposure to PFAS and identify the parties responsible for this pollution.”
Building on Michigan’s first-in-the-nation public water supply and school testing program, MPART this year expanded testing to provide greater assurance for public water systems. EGLE tested every public water system with an intake on a river, stream, or lake on a monthly basis and expanded testing to care facilities, seasonal camps, and businesses.
MPART also continued to build on its wastewater plant and industrial testing program to locate sources of PFAS contamination and work with treatment plant operators and industries to eliminate PFAS discharges. Many companies have successfully eliminated or greatly reduced their PFAS discharges to wastewater plants under this program.
Working with first responders across Michigan, MPART also launched a $1.4 million collection and disposal program for PFAS-containing firefighting foam which, when completed in 2020, will remove roughly 34,000 gallons of firefighting foam from the state.
Michigan also continues to seek relief for communities impacted by the costs of PFAS contamination. EGLE’s partnership on PFAS enforcement matters with the Michigan Attorney General produced a tentative agreement with Wolverine Worldwide this year to pay $69.5 million to extend clean municipal water to 1,000 properties in Plainfield and Algoma townships impacted by PFAS from the former Wolverine tannery. The agreement also obligates Wolverine to maintain filters, install wells to monitor groundwater contamination, and undertake response activities at the former Tannery and House Street Disposal Site under EGLE’s oversight.
MPART this year also established stronger links to Michigan communities affected by PFAS contamination by creating several citizen advisory workgroups, whose members advise MPART on local investigation and response activities and help keep the public better informed.
“Michigan continues to lead the nation on this issue, but our work is not done,” Sliver said. “The MPART member agencies look forward to building on our partnership with the State Attorney General and the Michigan congressional delegation, who have shown bipartisan support for our efforts to seek additional relief for communities negatively impacted by PFAS contamination. We also look forward to increased collaboration with local leaders and health officials to keep the public informed and provide even greater transparency regarding our efforts.”
Known to scientists as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS are a group of emerging and potentially harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products. These compounds also are used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers.
To learn more about PFAS and read the fiscal 2019 year-end report, visit the MPART web site at Michigan.gov/PFASResponse.