Read the full article by Melissa Nann Burke

“Washington — A Michigan activist told a U.S. Senate panel Wednesday that there needs to be swifter federal action on drinking-water contamination by a potentially harmful class of fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.

A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee heard from federal agencies about the government’s role in the crisis, as well as from individuals from affected communities including Oscoda.

Arnie Leriche, community co-chair of the Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board and a former environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said he retired to Oscoda largely because he wanted to go fishing on the Au Sable River, Lake Huron and surrounding inland lakes.

Then he learned in 2012 about advisories not to eat the fish he’d caught due to PFAS contamination from the nearby former Wurthsmith Air Force Base.

‘I appreciate that the Air Force has taken some steps to address contamination at Wurtsmith, but our water is still poisoned, and we still cannot eat what we catch,’ Leriche said in submitted testimony.

‘I am glad that the EPA and (Department of Defense) are beginning to acknowledge this problem and think about steps to fix it. But the people of Oscoda don’t have any more time for delay or missteps. We need action now.’

He noted a beach on Van Etten Lake, formerly owned by the Air Force, where a bright white foam washes up on shore. There is a health advisory against ingesting the foam.

Air Force testing of the foam has found PFAS levels of 165,000 parts per trillion, Leriche said. The EPA’s current health advisory level is 70 parts per trillion.

‘Would you want your children and grandchildren playing in that water? Would you want them eating the fish?’ Leriche asked senators.

About 20 Michigan activists came to Washington for the hearing, representing groups such as the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and Need Our Water Oscoda, organizers said.

‘We’ve witnessed first-hand the failure of our state to properly inform and protect Michigan residents from PFAS,’ said Cody Angell, co-founder of Michigan Demands Action Against Contamination.

‘Our health is on the line, and we came to Washington today to demand action.’ …

‘As a senator from Michigan, a state surrounded by the Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of surface freshwater, I’m appalled by the number of water crises we’ve faced,’ Peters said in his opening statement.

‘My constituents and people across the country facing this crisis are fed up as well.’

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the Republican who chairs the subcommittee, convened the hearing but no other GOP senators participated…

Environmental activists and some lawmakers have urged the EPA to set a national, enforceable standard for PFAS in drinking water, which it has not done.

The current health advisory level of 70 ppt set in 2016 can’t be used to enforce cleanups or regulate the chemicals’ use, they say.

Peter Grevatt of the EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water testified that the agency is not looking at revising the 70 ppt advisory level, despite a Health and Human Services’ assessment earlier this year that PFAS can cause risks to human health at lower levels than the 70 ppt…

EPA will consider designating the the well-known PFAS compounds PFOA and PFOS as ‘hazardous substances’ under the Superfund statute, and it’s developing  groundwater cleanup recommendations for certain PFAS-contaminated sites, Grevatt said.

Peters said after the hearing that congressional action will be important in ensuring the EPA sets these guidelines.”