Michigan leads nation in PFAS. It will lead cleanups, too, U.S. reps say

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, speaks about Asian carp during a press event Wednesday at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. With him are (left to right) Reps. Debbie Dingell, Fred Upton, Elissa Slotkin; U.S. Sen. Gary Peters; Rep. Brenda Lawrence; Sen. Debbie Stabenow; and Reps. Jack Bergman and Haley Stevens.

MACKINAC ISLAND –  A report this month found Michigan leads the nation in sites contaminated with toxic chemicals known as PFAS, and the state’s bipartisan delegation in Congress has introduced a flurry of legislation to increase testing.

Among the federal bills: one to provide the U.S. Geological Survey with $45 million to develop new standards to detect PFAS, and another would test for at least 30 strains of the chemicals.

PFAS, shorthand for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, was used for decades in non-stick and water-resistant household products like Teflon and firefighting foam. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington D.C. nonprofit advocacy group, this month released a report showing that Michigan has 192 PFAS sites, roughly a third of the 610 locations identified nationwide in 43 states.

“In order to move on this issue, we have come together,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, said ata media briefing Wednesday on the porch of the Grand Hotel at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference.

He was among congressional members who pledged to fight PFAS and the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes. Some members of the delegation plan a fact-finding trip to Illinois on July 1 to learn about efforts to keep Asian carp from entering the lakes from the Illinois River. A non-native fish, the carp are “voracious and often outcompete native fish for food and habitat,” according to a report from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.

“The safety and security of our water is vital to the safety and security of everything we do here [in Michigan],” said Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet.

Bergman and Peters were joined by Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow; Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township, Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills and Elissa Slotkin of Holly.

They announced legislation to require the EPA to set a standard to determine how much PFAS is dangerous.

The agency has set a lifetime health advisory for PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion, but federal research recently made public suggests exposure could be harmful at much lower levels.

The advisory, however, is nonbinding. At some Michigan sites, officials have detected PFAS levels below the threshold, while higher levels at sites such as the closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County have prompted warnings not to drink groundwater of eat deer or fish killed in the area.

“The folks in Oscoda have waited too long for a national standard,” Peters said. “The EPA is moving on this too slowly. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with swiftness.”

Slotkin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Bridge Magazine that Congress may soon allocate money for PFAS cleanups in Michigan including Wurtsmith.

“The military has a responsibility and we are about to literally next week mark up the 1,000-page Pentagon budget and you will see quite a bit about PFAS,” said Slotkin, who sponsored the legislation to require PFAS testing at municipal water systems.

She said Michigan has the most identified PFAS sites in the nation because “we are testing” and “ahead of the game.”

Michigan will be the place where we come up with innovative cleanup solutions because we don’t have a ton now,” Slotkin said.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


middle of the mit
Wed, 05/29/2019 - 8:30pm

"They announced legislation to require the EPA to set a standard to determine how much PFAS is dangerous."

What does this do? Does anyone remember Flint and what the EPA said?

Check the 1984 clean water and drinking act. The law, signed by Reagan says that the EPA is relegated to an advisory board. They can not enter the State or test any water or air without the States consent.

How do you think Rick Michigan got away with what he and the EMF's did?

States rights!

Jeff Wescott
Thu, 05/30/2019 - 4:24pm

Absolutely. There is too long a line of broken promises, back-room corporate deals, and plain-out lying on the part of Michigan Republicans for anyone to trust that they wouldn't push to fudge ANY standards sent down by the EPA. I know our own district's "Representative" Jack Bergman will do as he is told by the GOP, i.e., Jack won't do jack on this issue.