Read the full article by Garret Ellison

“LANSING, MI — Plans for a Michigan public forum on toxic water contamination led by the Environmental Protection Agency have been scuttled amid apparent disagreements over location and meeting format between the state and federal government.

This week, the EPA announced that Kansas will be the last stop on its ‘community engagement‘ series, which the agency has taken around the country this summer to states grappling with drinking water contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The meetings, which featured conference-style expert presentations and lengthy public feedback sessions, have been held in four states since the forum tour was announced in May during a summit on PFAS contamination at EPA headquarters.

Michigan was announced as one of the first two stops on the outreach effort, which is meant to help guide creation of a national management plan for PFAS that may involve new drinking water standards and chemical regulation under federal toxic cleanup law.

The EPA has been criticized for allowing the so-called ‘forever chemicals’ to fester on the unregulated contaminant list, causing some states to develop their own regulations as testing finds the pollutants in ever greater amounts and sites nationwide…

Both EPA and state officials say there’s still the possibility of a PFAS meeting in Michigan yet this fall, but that it may not look like the others, which featured extended ‘listening sessions’ for the public to share personal experiences, offer input and suggestions.

Statements from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality indicate the state would rather see a small gathering of community representatives rather than a public townhall.

Environmental activists expressed frustration that Michigan — which sits atop the national list of states with PFAS contamination sites — won’t get a public meeting like other states.

‘I’m disappointed that the community engagement meetings have been completed and Michigan has been shut out,’ said Tony Spaniola, a Troy attorney who owns property in Oscoda, where PFAS from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base has contaminated Van Etten Lake, the Au Sable River and nearby drinking water supplies.

‘A full-blown public engagement event is exactly what we need here,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of people with lots of concerns who need to be able to express them in an open public session.’ …

If the EPA does hold a PFAS event in Michigan, it says the format may not include a public listening component or feature certain national staff who have been at other meetings.

The listening sessions in other states have been long affairs — sometimes four to five hours. In North Carolina, it was 3 to 8 p.m. In Kansas, the scheduled session is almost four hours.

‘Throughout the summer, EPA worked to balance the need to take action with the agency’s desire to hear from as many communities as possible,’ said EPA spokeswoman Molly Block.

Scott Dean, spokesman for Michigan DEQ, said the agency has held ‘numerous discussions’ with EPA related to location and format for a PFAS forum over the summer….

Because Michigan has been actively searching for and discovering contamination sites, Dean said it has ‘a number of interested constituencies’ statewide. Communities like Oscoda, Rockford and Parchment are among those where high levels of contamination have been found in drinking water from past PFAS use or disposal by private industry or the military.

‘There may be interest in bringing together key representatives from many constituencies in one location,’ Dean said, for a meeting which could be more roundtable and less townhall.

Dean called suggestions that Michigan is not interested in hearing from its citizens ‘false,’ citing the multiple meetings DEQ or other state agencies under the state’s PFAS team, MPART, have hosted or presented at related to contamination in Michigan.

Block said that whether or not EPA does any meeting in Michigan, state residents can still submit input via EPA’s non-regulatory docket. (Click here, enter Docket ID No. EPA-OW-2018-0270).”