Slides Available from Milford Public Meeting

A community-focused discussion on the threat of PFAS to the Huron River took place in Milford on October 4. You can find the presentation slides here.

View the Video Recording of the Meeting

State, County, and Huron River Watershed Council staff provided introductory remarks and answered questions from the audience. The meeting was presented by the Huron River Watershed Council, the Village of Milford, Milford Township and City of Wixom.

About PFAS

  • PFAS are toxic, synthetic chemicals associated with many health problems.
  • PFAS have been found in the in the Huron River and throughout Michigan.
  • PFAS are still being used to produce many common products and PFAS pollution is widespread in Michigan.
  • PFAS pollution in drinking water is not regulated by federal law. Michigan DEQ established a cleanup criteria for groundwater used as drinking water on January 10, 2018.
  • Legislators from both major political parties at the state and federal level have called for greater regulation of PFAS and greater support for cleanup efforts.
  • So far, public drinking water in the Huron River Watershed has tested as safe to drink. Private wells have not been tested in most cases. Concerned residents on private wells should contact their county health departments.
  • Fish from the Huron River should not be eaten. MDHSS issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory that applies to most of the Huron River.
  • There is little evidence that swimming in water contaminated with PFAS is a health risk, but much is unknown about prolonged, repeated exposure of PFAS with human skin.
  • Avoid ingesting river foam and keep pets away. PFAS concentrates in foam.

Don’t Eat the Fish!

Until further notice, do not eat fish from the Huron River.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for most of the Huron River from the crossing at North Wixom Road in Milford all the way to Lake Erie.

The advisory did not specifically apply to tributaries along the Huron River, but HRWC is also advising that fish should not be eaten from connecting lakes and creeks. Read the August 31 MDHHS advisory here.

The map image shows the section of the river covered by the advisory in red. Sections of the watershed from which HRWC also recommends avoiding eating fish are shown as pink.

A “Do Not Eat Fish” Advisory was issued by MDHHS for most of the Huron River, with the affected sections of the river shown in red. Areas from which HRWC also recommends avoiding eating fish are shown as pink.

 

Stay Tuned for Updates

This is a rapidly developing issue for the Huron River watershed. There is still a lot we don’t know but we are learning more as ongoing research brings in new information. We will provide updates here, through emails, blogs, social networking posts, and media interviews. Sign up to get our email updates and news here:



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Michigan residents concerned about PFAS in drinking water should contact the Michigan Environmental Assistance Center with questions, 800-662-9278, M-F, 8am-4:30pm.

We Need to Fix the Problem

The Michigan Environmental Council has compiled a comprehensive set of solutions to protect people, wildlife, and the environment from PFAS. In summary, we need the State to:

Protect public health

We need the State to establish a drinking water standard for PFAS under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, provide options at no cost to individual residents in impacted communities, and fund new treatment technologies for public water systems.

Be transparent

The DEQ must publish all information they have gathered from all sources, and they need to investigate why a 2012 PFAS report was disregarded. The State needs to create a public, easy-to-read map that clearly shows all known contaminated groundwater plumes in Michigan.

Make polluters clean up their mess

We need to keep in place rules that allow new cleanup standards to be set quickly for chemicals like PFAS. The State needs to provide funding to clean up contaminated sites, penalize polluters, and hold companies accountable when they are aware of the dangers of PFAS but do not disclose the risks to the public.

More About PFAS

What are PFAS?

PFAS are toxic, synthetic chemicals. PFAS is an acronym that stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and covers a family of about 3000 similar contaminants. PFAS includes chemicals commonly discussed in the media such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

Why are PFAS cause for concern?

Exposure to PFAS associated with a number of health risks including cancer, increased cholesterol levels, low infant birth weights, liver and kidney dysfunction, and thyroid disorders. PFAS chemicals negatively impact health when they accumulate in the human body over time, or when they are highly concentrated in the food and water we consume.

Where are they and where do they come from?

PFAS are used everywhere and are polluting water throughout Michigan and around the country. They are present in hundreds of everyday consumer products such as food packaging, non-stick cookware, carpets and upholstery, waxes, outdoor apparel, and even dental floss. Common sources in Michigan are believed to be industrial manufacturing sites and places where fire suppression foam has been discharged, like military bases and fire stations.

Are PFAS banned?

Unfortunately PFAS chemicals are not banned. As of September 2018, there is currently no federal regulation limiting PFAS pollution.[2] The EPA has only issued advisory guidelines and has proposed a Significant New Use rule. If accepted, the new use rule would require new or resumed uses of PFAS to be reported, but would not still include any regulation of their pollution.

To date, all drinking water in the watershed falls below the EPA’s guideline for safety (this is a good thing!) Watershed residents get their drinking water from either the river, groundwater, or private wells.

Where does my water come from?

To find out the source of your drinking water, go to our Maps page and select your creekshed. Click on the “Go Deeper” link and scroll down.

Ann Arbor Drinking Water

Ann Arbor is the only community that draws surface water for drinking water from the river and PFAS levels in the water supply have been well below the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).[3] [4] [5][6] This year’s test results received from DEQ indicate that PFOS/PFOA levels in the city’s drinking water are 4 ppt. The City of Ann Arbor tests both finished drinking water and its river source water for PFAS on a monthly basis. Regular updates are provided to the public. The City is also experimenting with ways to remove PFAS from drinking water.

Removing PFAS from Drinking Water in Ann Arbor

Currently, granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration is the best available technology for removing PFAS in drinking water. The City has GAC filters, and has been proactive in piloting a new type of carbon in several of its filters since November 2017. This new carbon has demonstrated enhanced removal of PFAS. Due to this success, city staff will present a plan to City Council in September to propose replacing all of the older carbon in the city’s filters with the new type of carbon. It is estimated that the additional cost to replace the GAC in the filters will be $850,000 in fiscal year 2019.

Private Wells

For residents on private wells, contact your county health department (see contacts below). The State of Michigan has also provided guidance and answers to frequently asked questions here.

As of September 2018, PFAS have not been detected at significant levels in private or municipal wells within the Huron River Watershed. Numerous other sites in Michigan have detected PFAS-contaminated groundwater.

It’s unclear if the EPA Health Advisory Level is low enough.

While it’s reassuring that PFAS levels in Ann Arbor’s drinking water are below the EPA advisory level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that the 70 ppt standard should be lowered to about 10 ppt. Some states already have limits lower than the EPA in place. As pervasive as PFAS is in consumer products and the environment, we still do not know as much as we should about its long-term health effects.

No. Until further notice, do not eat fish from the Huron River. Fish recently tested in parts of the Huron had high levels of PFAS. On August 4, 2018, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory due to PFAS contamination for parts of the Huron River and on August 31, extended the advisory to include most of the Huron River from the N. Wixom Road crossing in Milford to Lake Erie. While the advisory did not specifically apply to tributaries along the Huron River, HRWC is advising that fish should not be eaten from connecting lakes and creeks. Read the August 31 MDHHS advisory here.

Yes. PFAS are not toxic through contact with the skin, and the occasional, accidental gulp of calm lake or river water is okay, though raw river water should never be consumed due to a variety of health risks. PFAS do collect at very high concentrations in foamy water, so be sure not to accidentally swallow foam.

The EPA has issued Health Advisory Levels but there is currently no federal regulation regarding PFAS. There are only voluntary options for reporting significant new PFAS uses and monitoring sources. The State of Michigan has used the EPA guidelines as the enforceable water quality standards and cleanup criteria.

PFAS Health Advisory Levels and Regulatory Levels by Type of Exposure

Contaminant and Exposure Type EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level (ppt) MDEQ Enforcement Level (ppt) Determining Rule or Law
PFOS in Groundwater used for Drinking Water 70 (individually or in combination with PFOA) 70 (individually or in combination with PFOA)

Cleanup Criteria Requirements for Response Activity

PFOA Groundwater used for Drinking Water 70 (individually or in combination with PFOS) 70 (individually or in combination with PFOS)

Cleanup Criteria Requirements for Response Activity

PFOS Surface water used for Drinking Water 11 (individually or in combination with PFOS) Rule 57 Water Quality Values
PFOS Surface water not used for Drinking Water 12 (individually or in combination with PFOS) Rule 57 Water Quality Values
PFOA Surface water used for Drinking Water 420 Rule 57 Water Quality Values
PFOA Surface water not used for Drinking Water 12000 Rule 57 Water Quality Values
PFOS in Fish 300000000 (300 ppb) Rule 57 Part 4 Water Quality Values
PFOA in Fish Rule 57 Part 4 Water Quality Values

 

There is a state-led initiative to test drinking water from all schools that use well water or community water supplies for PFAS. Michigan’s fire service community is also investigating fire suppression foam and determining safe disposal approaches. And in the Huron River watershed, adding to on-going water testing by the City of Ann Arbor since 2014, state agencies are conducting surface water testing and fish sampling at a number of sites on the river.

Learn more about how PFAS is monitored and ongoing efforts to protect waterways through new policies.

State of Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team (MPART)

The State of Michigan started the PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), a multi-agency action team, in 2017 to address the PFAS issue. MPART has information for Michigan residents concerned about PFAS in drinking water. Contact the Michigan Environmental Assistance Center with questions, 800-662-9278, M-F, 8am-4:30pm.

Identifying Sources of PFAS

During the summer of 2018, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) conducted surface water tests at approximately 15 sites throughout the watershed trying to identify a source of PFAS in the Huron River. Additionally, the MDHHS is collecting and analyzing fish samples. More broadly, MDEQ has also begun testing drinking water from all schools that use well water and community water supplies for PFAS. Sampling results are available through the MPART website. Statewide, treatment plants that treat industrial wastewater have also been under scrutiny, and such testing of effluent lead to the detection of PFAS at the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant.

There is still much we don’t know about PFAS. While we know that it has bad health effects on humans, we don’t know for sure at what levels. It has been found in the Huron River and at least one major source has been identified in Milford, but there may be other unidentified sources and we don’t know how to clean it up.

HRWC needs more answers to protect the river and people that live, work, and play in the watershed. We want you to know what we know—and what questions we are asking. Here are some of our concerns:

  • What is the extent of PFAS in the environment, where is it coming from, and how can we clean it up? We hope that the State’s testing of several sites on the Huron will give us answers.
  • Is the current EPA drinking water health advisory level of 70 ppt actually protective of human health? The CDC report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) raises concerns that there may be inadequate regulation of these chemicals. Our families that live in the watershed deserve a rigorous investigation of these standards and protection from these toxic chemicals.

For general questions or concerns about PFAS, or to find out who best to speak with, HRWC is happy to help. Contact Laura Rubin at lrubin@hrwc.org.

For specific concerns about contamination of private wells, please contact your county health department:

Washtenaw County Health Department

Environmental Health Division
734-222-3800

Livingston County Health Department

Environmental Health Division
517-546-9858

Oakland County Health Department

Environmental Health Division
Monday-Friday 8:30 AM-5 PM
248-858-1312 Pontiac (North Oakland)
248-424-7190 Southfield (South Oakland)

Wayne County Health Department

Environmental Health Division
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
734-727-7400

Monroe County Health Department

Environmental Health Division
Monday-Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
734-240-7900

City of Ann Arbor, Water Treatment

Contact for PFAS in drinking water questions
734-994-2840
water@a2gov.org

Michigan PFAS Response Action Team | Michigan Environmental Assistance Center

Monday-Friday 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
800-662-9278

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services | Michigan Eat Safe Fish

800-648-6942
Monday-Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Michelle Bruneau: bruneaum@michigan.gov
Laura Gossiaux: gossiauxl@michigan.gov
Jennifer Gray – grayj@michigan.gov
Direct general questions to the Michigan Environmental Assistance Center
800-662-9278, M-F, 8am-4:30pm.

HRWC is keeping a close watch on changing conditions in the watershed, our communities, and in the policies that protect the people who live here. We will continue to work with MDEQ, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and other partners statewide to reduce PFAS contamination. We will raise awareness as new information becomes available, and we will hold officials accountable. That said, there is currently no federal or state regulation regarding PFAS contamination in drinking water, and HRWC has no governing authority. Unless a community decides to address contamination through local ordinance, reducing PFAS is voluntary. To address contamination detected at the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant, we will work with municipal and county officials in the area to understand the scope of the problem and remove a major source of industrial pollution from the river.

PFAS contamination will remain in the Huron River for the foreseeable future. It remains unclear when it will be resolved because even as existing pollution is flushed from the river and diluted, sources continue to dump PFAS into the river. The first step is to stop releasing these chemicals into our environment.

To learn more about PFAS and what you can do to prevent being exposed or using products with PFAS, here a few good resources:

Michigan.gov FAS Response

The State of Michigan has created a webpage to address common questions about PFAS, its potential health and environmental impacts, and its sources.

Michigan Department of Environmentla Quality (MDEQ) Public Water Supply Information

MDEQ is testing school drinking water for PFAS as a cautionary step. Information on this page summarizes current sampling results from these locations.

Residential Well Testing

Read answers to common questions and learn more about having your private well tested for PFAS.

Ann Arbor PFAS Information from the Water Treatment Department

The City of Ann Arbor has compiled a document of frequently asked questions for residents and visitors to the area.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PFAS Resources

The EPA provides a wide range of information on PFAS from introductory material to detailed information on health advisory levels and guidelines. To see what other states are doing about PFAS, click here.

Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR)

The CDC provides links to health information, exposure, and additional resources.

Michigan Environmental Council: PFAS in Michigan: What We Know and What We Need

MEC provides a digest on the status of PFAS contamination and specific proposed policy solutions in Michigan.

 

PFAS in the News

11/13/18 | Scientist: PFAS has been contaminating Michigan population for years

State officials, scientists, and residents discussed PFAS contamination in Michigan at a U.S. Senate Field Hearing hosted by Senator Gary Peters.

10/22/18 | Low PFAS Levels Detected At Two Pinckney Schools

Testing has revealed very low PFAS levels (4 ppt) in water supplies at two Pinckney schools. Officials say there is no cause for alarm.

10/18/18 | Survey: More than 100 MI fire departments have PFAS foam

Nearly half of about 300 Michigan fire departments said they have reserves of firefighting foam that has the potential to contaminate groundwater.

10/9/18 | PFAS causes ‘Do not eat the fish’ advisories

The State of Michigan has been issuing “Don’t Eat the Fish” advisories along lakes, rivers and streams, but there are concerns about whether state officials are doing as much as they should.

10/5/18 | “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory continues for Chain of Lakes and Huron River

The “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory will continue on the Huron River and Chain of Lakes for the foreseeable future as new fish samples from Portage Lake showed high levels of PFAS contamination.

10/4/18 | New source and route identified for PFAS contaminating Huron River

While solutions were being put in place for the presumed major source of PFAS contamination to the Huron River, at least two other sources with different pathways of contamination were discovered.

10/2/18 | Temporary filters will reduce PFAS heading into Huron River

Tribar Manufacturing (a.k.a. Adept Plating and Plastics), plans to install massive, portable granular activated carbon filtration systems to reduce their discharged PFAS contamination. The filters are expected to be operational October 5th.

9/24/18 | ‘Astronomical’ PFAS level sets new Michigan contamination milestone

Pollution in Norton Creek, which feeds the Huron River in Oakland County, set a new state record for level of PFAS contamination.

9/19/18 | PFAS found in high concentrations in Huron River Foam

MDHSS is advising people to avoid swallowing foam or letting their pets near it on the Huron River.

9/14/18 | PFAS Firefighting Foams are still in use in Michigan
Firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals are a major source of contamination but fire departments are still using them.

9/11/18 | Michigan health officials downplay danger of PFAS at levels near advisory

State and local health department officials downplayed PFAS exposure risks, at levels near the federal advisory level, saying caution should be exercised but more research was needed.

9/7/18 | EPA will hold PFAS meetings in Michigan after all

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell pressed the Environmental Protection Agency to restore plans to hold an engagement meeting in the state. She later said the EPA committed to the idea.

9/6/18 | Congress urged to ‘act swiftly’ on national PFAS laws

Advocates pressed Congress to pursue actions to remove PFAS from drinking water supplies. A question from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell revealed that Michigan does not test for a particular group of PFAS chemicals that have been associated with negative health effects in North Carolina.

9/4/18 | Democratic lawmakers continue call for PFAS hearings, legislation

Democrats again called for movement of legislation they introduced December 2017 that would lower PFOS and PFOA drinking water levels to 5 parts per trillion each.

(HB 5375)

Issues Of The Environment: PFAS And The Huron River Part 2

WEMU’s David Fair revisits the PFAS situation with Laura Rubin.

9/4/18 | Democrats want Legislature to move PFAS bill, hold hearings

Michigan House Democrats criticized the rigor of Michigan’s PFAS response and pointed to stalled legislation that would establish drinking water standards. They also referenced reports that state regulators ignored warnings about the crisis for several years.

9/4/18 | Metro Detroit auto supplier is a source of PFAS pollution in Huron River

Adept Plastic Finishing Inc. Plant 4 in Wixom sent high levels of PFOS into the wastewater treatment plant, according to a test in mid-May. The measured level was 28,000 parts per trillion, more than 2,300 times the health advisory level of 12 parts per trillion.

8/31/18 | WEMU: Issues Of The Environment: PFAS And The Huron River

Huron River Watershed Council executive director Laura Rubin dispels some misconceptions about the advisory and discusses the concerns the contamination raises for the present and future health of the river.

8/31/18 | Michigan says PFAS makes all fish in Huron River unsafe to eat

PFAS tests showed that all fish in a five-county span of the Huron River contain too much contamination for people to eat them.

8/30/18 | Ann Arbor will propose new plan to reduce PFAS in drinking water

Ann Arbor plans to seek $850,000 to upgrade filtration at its water treatment plant and reduce PFAS contamination in its drinking water.

8/29/18 | Michigan cut from EPA national PFAS forum tour

Plans for a Michigan public forum on PFAS contamination led by the EPA were scuttled over disagreements between the state and federal government.

8/24/18 | Bill would give $45M for nationwide PFAS testing

Senate Bill 3382, or the PFAS Detection Act, is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. It authorizes $45 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to test for PFAS contamination near drinking water sources around the country and develop advanced methods for finding “as many compounds as possible” at lower concentrations.

8/22/18 | Michigan searches for source of PFAS contamination in Huron River

Michigan officials continued to hunt for the source of the contaminant that prompted an urgent “do not eat” advisory for fish in three southeast Michigan counties.

8/8/18 |  PFAS and the Huron River

Blog by Laura Rubin that provides overview of the issue for the Huron River Watershed and its inhabitants.

8/4/18 | PFAS ‘Do Not Eat’ fish advisory issued for Huron River in 3 counties

State health officials issued an emergency PFAS “Do Not Eat” fish consumption advisory Saturday for several water bodies on the Huron River within parts of Oakland, Livingston and Washtnenaw counties.

7/25/18 | Issues Of The Environment: PFAs Contamination Throughout Michigan And In Washtenaw County<

PFAS have found their way in Washtenaw County’s drinking water, and that can lead to numerous health and environmental problems.  David Fair talks about this situation with Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso, toxicologist and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan.

1/10/18 | State Takes Action to Strengthen Environmental Criteria in Response to PFAS Contamination

Following EPA health advisory levels, Michigan established drinking water criteria for PFOS and PFOA that allows MDEQ to take regulatory enforcement action.