Read the full article by Jacob Holzman
“Years after the Flint water crisis drew national attention, another water pollution issue has emerged in House races in Michigan.
Residents are growing concerned about human exposure to so-called forever chemicals, known as perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals, linked to health problems such as hypertension in pregnant women and a higher risk of developing certain cancers, have been found in groundwater and drinking water systems across the state.
Along with other water-centric issues springing up through the summer, including an outbreak of lead contamination in Detroit public school drinking water systems, the current of bad news about Michiganders’ water has made the issue a “powder keg” in the election, said Bob Allison, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
In July, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in Kalamazoo County after drinking water in the town of Parchment tested at over 20 times the EPA’s health advisory limit for two forms of PFAS — PFOS and PFOA — which were phased out of production in 2000 amid concerns over their risks to human health.
The state so far had found at least 38 sites, including public drinking water utilities, rivers and streams, with high concentrations of PFAS, according to the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, a multiagency program started in November 2017 to address the problem…
‘PFAS, like the Flint water crisis — they’re both examples that make it clear elections matter,’ said Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, whose district includes Flint and whose midterm race is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. ‘Public policy is not some abstraction and it could really have an effect on people who don’t think about politics all the time.’
While Flint’s problem occurred in a historically Democratic district, PFAS have emerged as a problem in suburban and rural communities that traditionally vote Republican. Of 38 sites the state deemed contaminated by the chemicals, 23 are in GOP-held districts.
Local water activist Cody Angell started the clean water activist group Michigan Demands Action after high levels of PFAS contamination were found in the drinking water samples in his town of Plainfield Township coming from a nearby tannery. His group has grown to over 6,000 members…
Two midterm contests in nearby GOP-held districts are rated Toss-ups by Inside Elections: the 11th District, where Democrat Haley Stevens and Republican Lena Epstein are vying to replace Republican Dave Trott, who’s not running for re-election, and the 8th District, where Democrat Elissa Slotkin is challenging incumbent Republican Mike Bishop.
‘This is a massive talking point because this has been in the news so much,’ Angell said. ‘People are demanding access to clean water.’
Democratic turnout in the state’s primary election, held less than two weeks after Kalamazoo County’s contamination was first announced, may be evidence of how PFAS is animating voters, especially in districts with contamination sites, he said.
In Kalamazoo County, overall turnout in the primary jumped to roughly 56,000 from roughly 27,000 in 2016. The district saw Democratic turnout nearly tripling the levels seen in its primaries since it was redrawn in 2010. Other GOP-held congressional districts with contamination sites found in the last year saw similar jumps, including Amash’s.
‘When you have folks in Detroit and Flint struggling to have access to clean drinking water, and you have folks in Plainfield Township and [others] grappling with the same issue, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican,’ said the League of Conservation Voters’ Allison. ‘What only matters is if you can trust the water that’s in your glass.’ “