Read the full article by Garret Ellison
“In a state where toxic chemicals from both military and industrial sources are found at dozens of sites and in water serving thousands of people, regulators soon will propose hard, enforceable limits for how much of those contaminants can be in drinking water.
That state is not Michigan.
The Republican-led government in New Hampshire is joining the state of New Jersey in taking a logical next step in PFAS response: Namely, establishing a legally enforceable standard for the chemicals in drinking water that public supply operators would be required to comply with under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Starting Jan. 1, New Hampshire will begin setting an MCL, or maximum contaminant level, for PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS — four PFAS compounds which are now regularly being found in both public and private drinking water supplies across Michigan.
Despite Michigan’s widely praised effort to find PFAS contamination, state leaders have moved slowly toward setting a drinking water standard to regulate the persistent, toxic and pervasive ‘forever chemicals.’ This failure to act swiftly comes despite data showing that nearly 1.9 million people have been drinking some level of PFAS chemicals — and statewide testing isn’t even done yet.
What is stopping Michigan, which lauds itself as a national leader in tackling PFAS pollution, from doing what other states already are?
The question has been raised with increasing urgency…
Experts who are watching and waiting to see how Michigan will act say the next step is obvious: Pass a drinking water standard, preferably a strict one set at low concentration levels adequate to protect infants and unborn children from developmental effects of PFAS exposure…
Throughout the spring and summer, Michigan Democrats kept asking why a House bill proposing a very low standard was languishing in committee, unable to get any acknowledgement from Republicans even as contamination was found in ever more places.
As of Oct. 16, 55 municipal systems in Michigan have found at least traces of PFAS their supply. The list includes cities like Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Bay City, Saginaw, Port Huron, Monroe, Escanaba, Grand Haven and many others.
Republicans finally answered this month, saying they will hold PFAS hearings after the election that will, among other things, consider a statewide PFAS standard of 5 parts-per-trillion in drinking water proposed by Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids…
Adler said state regulators will recommend whether to pursue a standard after getting formal input this fall from a panel of science advisors led by Brown University epidemiologist David Savitz, who says his team is distilling the scientific evidence related to health impacts into a report that won’t include recommended actions.
On setting an MCL through legislation, Adler said ‘any time we can do something through the Legislature and state statute is preferred.’
In the wake of Flint’s water crisis, the governor’s office has been sensitive to criticism about its response to PFAS contamination. Snyder’s team has responded to calls for investigation into early internal Department of Environmental Quality reports about PFAS that were largely ignored by declaring that Michigan is ‘leading the nation’ on multiple fronts related to the issue.
The talking point has been repeated in reference to the creation of MPART, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team that Snyder started in November in response to a mushrooming PFAS contamination problem in northern Kent County…
What MPART has done so far has indeed garnered praise, from critics and peer state regulators alike. Other states credit Michigan for aggressively seeking out PFAS in drinking water and sewage plants. The testing effort is pointing to the manufacturing sector as a significant source of PFAS-tainted wastewater getting into waterways like the Huron River, which is the primary source of drinking water for 118,000 people in and around Ann Arbor.
Nonetheless, David Andrews, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which tracks PFAS emergence and regulations, said reducing exposure through rule-setting is a critical step that can happen concurrently with testing efforts.
‘Testing is an important step, but it’s not the be-all, end-all,’ Andrews said. ‘It’s not the step that necessarily formalizes or ensures clean drinking water. Just being a leader on that first step doesn’t necessarily make you a leader across the board.’ …
Nationally, whenever talk of standards comes up — particularly in the context of establishing a strict one that sets maximum parts-per-trillion levels in the single digits or teens — one state in particular is often cited as being the national leader: New Jersey.
Rob Bilott, an attorney instrumental in bringing PFAS contamination to light nationwide through a high-profile class action lawsuit against DuPont, cited New Jersey’s deep knowledge of PFAS as a good example of how significant expertise exists at the state level.
‘I think some of the states have some of the best people,’ Bilott said during a panel appearance in Flint this month. ‘New Jersey, in particular, is leading the country on really understanding comprehensively not only individual chemicals, but the whole class.’ …
In 2006 — years before the federal government began nationwide sampling — the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection began testing for two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA, in some drinking water systems after being alerted to contaminants found in Delaware River samples. Shortly afterward, state toxicologists analyzed health studies and developed a non-binding safety guidance number of 40 parts-per-trillion (ppt).
By contrast, the EPA was using much higher provisional numbers. In 2009, the EPA’s interim advisory level was set at 400-ppt — about five times the eventual advisory level set at 70-ppt in 2016.
Like Michigan, New Jersey is not shackled by laws that prohibit state rules from being more stringent than federal regulations. State scientists reviewed animal studies which showed PFAS exposure caused increased liver weight, liver toxicity and delayed mammary gland development. They concluded EPA’s level was too high…
In September, the state formally passed a standard for PFNA, a lesser-known PFAS compound, of 13-ppt. The state is poised to set similarly low standards for PFOS and PFOA. “