Read the full article by Garret Ellison

“LANSING, MI — The Natural Resources Defense Council is pushing Michigan to adopt public drinking water standards for several toxic PFAS chemicals that would be the strictest thus far of any state in the nation.

In a new report delivered to state officials today, the NRDC says Michigan should set a combined maximum contaminant level, or MCL, for five different PFAS compounds between 2 and 5 parts-per-trillion (ppt) – levels which are well below a federal advisory threshold now in use.

Last week, Michigan began taking steps to draft PFAS standards for public drinking water. The NRDC, an international nonprofit environmental group, wants state officials to take precedent-setting steps to protect vulnerable populations like children and pregnant mothers.

The recommendations are based on an analysis of existing health studies and water treatment techniques. Report authors conclude that enough evidence of harm from exposure to the compounds exists to support such low enforceable drinking water limits.

‘There really is no safe level for these chemicals that’s been demonstrated,’ said report lead author Anna Reade, staff scientist at the NRDC. ‘Our goal should be that we don’t have these chemicals in our drinking water at all.’

The NRDC says detection and water treatment capabilities indicate that a combined drinking water standard of 2-ppt is feasible for the individual compounds PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS, with a separate standard of 5-ppt for GenX — a compound developed by DuPont as a replacement for PFOA which itself has polluted water supplies in North Carolina.

The NRDC analysis comes as a growing number of states, academics, independent scientists and federal environmental health officials question the adequacy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level of 70-ppt for PFOS and PFOA. Those are two of numerous compounds in the PFAS family found in Michigan water.

In December, a panel of scientists convened under former Michigan governor Rick Snyder, who conducted a similar analysis, concluded that 70-ppt may not be an adequate safety threshold because studies show potential health effects from drinking water at that level.

The EPA advisory level was established in 2016 and, although it has functioned as a de facto standard in Michigan and around the country, it is not enforceable in the same way an actual drinking water standard, or MCL, would be under the Safe Drinking Water Act…

According to the ATSDR, studies have shown that PFAS exposure can affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children.

Exposure can also lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant and cause complications once she does. The agency says the chemicals can interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system and increase the risk of cancer.

Infants and pregnant mothers are of particular concern, said Reade, because even low exposure levels during pregnancy can affect the growth and development of unborn children…

In the DEQ’s request to the state budget office to begin the MCL drafting process, the agency cited the discontent with the EPA advisory level by noting that ‘many academia, health officials, and the ASTDR deem this advisory level is too high.’

A Michigan PFAS Action Response Team workgroup will review existing and proposed “health-based” standards from around the country and present with the DEQ says are ‘public health goals’ for PFAS in drinking water by July 1. The proposed state regulations should be ready by Oct. 1, after which they’ll go through a more typical rule-making process.

Erik Olson, an NRDC PFAS policy expert, said the report focused on Michigan because of the data state regulators have generated on PFAS in groundwater and drinking water.

In 2018 testing, the DEQ found that more than 1.4 million people in Michigan are drinking from a public utility with at least one PFAS compound detection above 2-ppt. To date, there are also more than 40 sites in 30 communities around Michigan where the DEQ is investigating PFAS contamination in groundwater…”