Read full article by Jim Malewitz (Bridge Magazine)

“Michigan has taken a major step toward regulating dangerous PFAS chemicals in drinking water supplies.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week formally proposed limits on seven types of PFAS that would apply to about 2,700 public water systems around Michigan. The announcement came seven months after she directed her Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the multi-agency PFAS Action Response Team to draw up the science-based limits, which must undergo additional scrutiny before becoming final.

Whitmer’s announcement comes as state leaders across the country are calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate PFAS in drinking water nationwide – thus far to no avail.

‘We can no longer wait for the federal government to act, which is why I directed EGLE to establish PFAS drinking water standards to protect Michiganders,’ Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement Friday. ‘Moving forward with the rulemaking process moves us one step closer toward building public confidence and achieving real solutions that ensure every Michigander can safely bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table’…

Because PFAS is potentially harmful at such low levels, scientists measure the chemicals in parts per trillion (ppt). Think of 1 ppt in the environment as a grain of sand in a swimming pool. Whitmer proposed limits on seven types of PFAS – each known by their own acronyms – as follows:

PFNA – 6 ppt

PFOA – 8 ppt

PFHxA – 400,000 ppt

PFOS – 16 ppt

PFHxS – 51 ppt

PFBS – 420 ppt

GenX – 370 ppt

The proposal also would require drinking water providers to regularly sample their systems for PFAS…

The proposal covers about 2,700 public water supplies across Michigan, according to the administration’s Regulatory Impact Statement. That includes most municipalities and some schools and day care centers. It also includes businesses with their own water supplies that don’t rely on municipal water – such as manufactured home communities, apartment buildings and industrial campuses.

The proposal would not directly regulate the roughly 1.12 million Michigan residents who draw water from their own wells – the state lacks jurisdiction to require such residents to test their own water. Once adopted, however, the new drinking water standard would change a groundwater cleanup rule adopted last year.

Water systems exceeding the new limits must publicly report that information, and state regulators could force them to comply, either by compelling them to install new treatment systems or taking other actions. But that process could take time. The proposal ‘does not stipulate a required strategy or timeline to return to compliance,’ EGLE’s Regulatory Impact Statement says. The water supply would likely enter into an ‘Administrative Consent Order’ with the state – a legal agreement to take certain actions to fix a violation…

Water systems would pay for the regulations, meaning costs would be absorbed into utility bills.

The first year of sampling for PFAS under the proposal could cost $6.4 million across all 2,700 water systems, according to EGLE. But the agency says the cost will likely be lower in part because water systems with a good track record would not have to sample as frequently.

But water systems with too much PFAS would have to treat the water or switch sources – adding additional costs that could vary widely based upon the circumstances. One option would be to install a ‘granular activated carbon’ (GAC) treatment system. That could collectively cost affected water providers $7.4 million upfront and $325,000 more each year thereafter – another ‘conservative’ estimate, EGLE said…

The size – and cost – of upgrades to treat PFAS partly depends on whether a provider is treating groundwater or surface water, said Brian Steglitz, Ann Arbor’s water treatment manager.

‘Most surface water plants are already situated with filtration. Not all groundwater treatment facilities need to have filtration,’ he said, meaning groundwater facilities more often would need to pay more to build an entire treatment system, rather than just upgrade the filters…

While generally applauding Gov. Whitmer’s proposal, some environmental groups have pushed for even stronger protections that would regulate PFAS as a class, rather than singling out seven types of the chemicals.

‘If only a handful of PFAS are regulated, there will be swift regrettable substitution with other, similarly toxic PFAS – creating an ongoing problem where addressing one chemical at a time incentivizes the use of other toxic chemicals and we fail to establish effective safeguards to limit this growing class of dangerous chemicals,’ scientists for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group, wrote in a March report.

Michigan’s science advisory workgroup acknowledged other PFAS compounds are likely to have similar effects as the ones Whitmer proposes to regulate. But the workgroup said it lacked enough information to recommend health-based limits.

For other unregulated PFAS compounds, ‘additional monitoring, research for potential sources, notification of the public, and efforts to reduce exposure are warranted,’ the workgroup wrote in a June report developed for the PFAS Action Response Team.”