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PFAS in Wildlife

A muskrat standing on a rock sticking out of water, munching on reeds

PFAS in Wildlife

In December 2019, MDHHS issued a 'Do Not Eat' advisory for aquatic or semi-aquatic wildlife in Clark's Marsh, Oscoda Township area.

The 2019 advisory recommends against eating resident aquatic or semi-aquatic wildlife living in or near the water in Clark's Marsh including fish, aquatic and semi-aquatic mammals (muskrats), amphibians (frogs), mollusks (snails), reptiles (turtles), and arthropods (crayfish). This advisory will be in place until PFAS in wildlife there can be further analyzed.

The wildlife advisory was issued due to:

  • The high amount of PFAS in the water at Clark's Marsh
  • Research projects described below, which found PFAS in the Marsh's food web
  • 'Do Not Eat' advisories issued by MDHHS for fish from the marsh and white-tailed deer taken from around the marsh (Refer to the Clark's Marsh "Do Not Eat" deer advisory)

Scientists are trying to learn more about how high levels of PFAS can affect wildlife. Several research projects have focused on Clark's Marsh because of high amounts of PFAS in the marsh's water:

  • A research team from Purdue University, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), investigated PFAS in the marsh's food chain. The team presented findings to the MPART Wildlife Workgroup on June 24, 2019. The team analyzed PFAS in sediment, algae, snails, tadpoles, dragonflies, crayfish, central mudminnows, and brook sticklebacks, samples of which were collected in 2018.
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists studied PFAS levels in tree swallows nesting in the Clark's Marsh area from 2014 to 2017. Tree swallows' diet includes water insects (that is, insects that spend part of their life cycle in water). They feed on these insects within 0.3 miles of their nests, so studying tree swallows can help to identify contamination in the food chain in a local area. The study found PFAS concentrations in Clark's Marsh tree swallows were among the highest ever documented in birds, yet the swallows' health was not harmed by these concentrations. The highest levels were found in tree swallows living next to a PFAS plant in Belgium.
  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) tested two muskrats taken from Clark's Marsh in 2014 and 2015. PFOS was found in the muskrats' muscle, liver, and kidney.