One of the questions that emerged during a Wednesday town hall meeting about groundwater contamination in Plainfield Township had to do with what is considered a ‘safe’ level of industrial contamination in drinking water.
In this case, the contamination is PFAS, a chemical contained in Scotchgard that was used by Wolverine Worldwide to waterproof shoes.
It has shown up in 34 percent of the 614 wells tested near an abandoned Wolverine Worldwide dump on House Street NE. The Environmental Protection Agency considers concentrations of 70 parts per trillion to be safe for drinking. It was disclosed that 30 of the wells tested exceeded that number.
The state of New Jersey on Nov. 1 set the standard for PFOA, a chemical in the PFAS family, at 14 parts per trillion.
State Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, said it is likely that everyone has some traces of the chemicals in their bodies.
"I'm sure I have PFAS in my blood system right now because I ate some fast food the other day and it's in the wrappers,'' he said. "It's just around. You and I grew up with this stuff all around us - whether it was in our Teflon pans or the couch we sit on that had some sort of stain resistant on it.''
He said he is relying on the EPA level of 70 ppt for drinking water.
“Is 70 the right number? Who knows? We don’t know,’’ MacGregor said. “That’s the reason why this is an emerging contaminant and we need to do our homework; we need to gather data.’’
He says he is hopeful more clarification will be forthcoming from the recently-formed Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). Gov. Rick Snyder on Nov. 13 formed the team, which is “tasked with enhancing cooperation and coordination among local, state and federal agencies charged with identifying, communicating and addressing potential effects of PFAS in Michigan and protecting public health.’’
“Everybody has a fear of the unknown,’’ MacGregor said. “And there’s a little bit unknown here. That’s why we need to make sure we have the cooperation between the federal government, the state government and the local government so we’re all on the same page, working together and not against each other.’’
During the town hall meeting on Wednesday, a representative of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said the state is following the EPA’s advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, but recommended that residents not drink water with any PFAS contamination if they live near a known dump, like the site on House Street NE.
MacGregor says he expects a supplemental appropriation bill of about $30 million will be introduced soon to help the state of Michigan address the PFAS issue. It would include funding for an in-state lab to test for PFAS.
“I think a supplemental will be presented prior to the Christmas break,’’ he said. “I’m going to push and hope that it gets voted on prior to the Christmas break.’’
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