Michigan officials continue to hunt for the source of the contaminant that prompted an urgent ‘do not eat’ advisory for fish in three southeast Michigan counties.

The advisory – issued in early August for the Huron River from Kensington Metropark near Milford into Washtenaw County, north of Ann Arbor – comes after fish tested at 3 to 4 times the state’s maximum safety threshold.

It also signals ongoing efforts by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to find the source of the PFAS contamination in the Huron River, which affects the Ann Arbor municipal water system.

‘We’re really hoping to figure out the extent of it, where it’s coming from and how we can clean it up,’ said Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council.

Rubin said the fish advisory was ‘sudden’ and issued by the state with few initial details as more MDEQ resources target the PFAS analysis in the Huron River.

The reason, said Teresa Seidel, director of the MDEQ’s water resources division, was that the fish testing results required an emergency response…

The effort ended up affecting three counties: In addition to Washtenaw, they were Oakland and Livingston.

PFAS represents a group of water-repellent chemicals known as per- and poly-flourinated compounds, which have links to cancer, liver damage, birth defects and autoimmune diseases.

Michigan is midway through thousands of tests to determine the extent of the contamination in the state, with a focus on pollution that affects public health. So far, results prompted an emergency water system shut-down in Parchment, near Kalamazoo.

Yet other communities have been affected for longer, including the Oscoda area and northern Kent County. Among water systems showing PFAS findings above a ‘non-detect’ level is Ann Arbor, where tests going back to 2014 generated readings of 10-43 parts per trillion (ppt). It pulls 85 percent of its drinking water from the Huron River, several miles downstream from Kent Lake…

… Ann Arbor started this year to experiment with methods of removing PFAS using granular activated carbon, he said, while the state set up a plan to analyze the Huron River to see if it could determine a PFAS contamination source. Seventeen water samples were pulled from the river on July 24, while the state also planned to test fish.

The fish from the Huron River chain of lakes tested high for the PFOS type of the contaminant, which ‘tends to be the only PFAS found in fish at elevated levels that cause Eat Safe Fish Guidelines,’ said Angela Minicuci, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Both black crappie and largemouth bass collected in 2017 in Kensington’s Kent Lake were used for the fish sampling, according to follow-up data provided by the MDHHS. Ten fish of each type were tested, with black crappie PFOS averaging 1,029 parts per billion (ppb) and the largemouth bass averaging 1,481 ppb.

Moving fish into the ‘do not eat’ category comes at a level of 300 ppb of PFOS or higher. In comparison, fish at 9 ppb are considered safe to eat for 16 meals per month, the lowest advisory level in state guidelines for PFOS…

Beyond the fish, MDEQ officials said they’re getting closer to identifying a cause for the high PFAS readings in the Huron River.

‘We have some candidates,’ said Jon Russell, manager in the MDEQ field operations section.

MDEQ staff has been working with regional wastewater treatment operators and sampling industrial customers who are permitted to discharge into the systems, Russell said.

In addition, he said, other sources also are being considered, including whether existing groundwater contamination is advancing to the Huron River chain of lakes.”

Read the full article by Paula Gardner