- PFAS are a family of thousands of toxic, synthetic chemicals associated with many health problems.
- PFAS pollution is widespread. PFAS have been found in the Huron River and many watersheds across the country.
- PFAS are commonly used in industrial processes in are many common household products.
- PFAS pollution in drinking water is not regulated by federal law.
- The State of Michigan has established drinking water standards for seven PFAS chemicals. State rules are now in place for cleanups regarding the seven chemicals for which there are drinking water standards.
Key Facts for Residents and Visitors of the Huron River
- All public drinking water in the Huron River watershed is compliant with Michigan drinking water standards.
- Private wells have not been tested in most cases. The state has no authority over private residential wells. Concerned residents on private wells should contact their county health departments.
- Do not eat fish from the Huron River. HRWC also recommends not consuming fish from connected lakes or creeks below Proud Lake. The state issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory that applies to most of the Huron River below Milford.
- Canoeing, kayaking, and swimming are okay. There is no evidence that swimming in water contaminated with PFAS is a health risk, but repeated ingestion of PFAS following skin contact is a concern.
- Avoid contact with river foam. PFAS concentrates at high levels in foam. If you do make contact with foam, rinse off with non-foamy river water and wash up when you get home.
Do Not Eat the Fish Advisory Information
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 connected lakes and creeks. Read the August 31 2018 MDHHS advisory here.
PFAS Contamination in Groundwater and Drinking Water in the Huron River Watershed
The map below shows all known (and some suspected) PFAS sites in the Huron River Watershed. The map will be updated periodically as new data is available. Since 2018, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) has coordinated PFAS sampling in public drinking water and the identification of PFAS contamination at sites across the state.
More than 90% of Michigan drinking water supplies tested in Michigan do not contain detectable levels of PFAS, and in the Huron River watershed, the City of Ann Arbor is the only affected municipal drinking water system. The city has been proactive and aggressive in its treatment for PFAS, and has effectively reduced total PFAS contamination to very low levels. No specific PFAS chemical has exceeded the drinking water standards established in August of 2020.
There are other private drinking water systems that provide public drinking water. This category includes churches, gyms, apartment complexes, and schools. Some of these providers have tested positive for PFAS and the State of Michigan is pursuing solutions with each contaminated provider.
The State has no authority to test or regulate drinking water from private wells. Officials are reaching out to residents they believe may be at risk of contaminated groundwater due to their proximity to contaminated sites, and in some cases, state officials will request to test private wells. That process will be continual. HRWC recommends that any resident approached due to risk of contamination have their drinking water tested for PFAS in cooperation with the state. As of August 2020, we are not aware of any location in the watershed where contaminated surface waters are infiltrating nearby wells. The State of Michigan has also provided guidance on residential well water testing here.
Initial Community Meeting Slides and Recordings
HRWC has facilitated community discussions on the threat of PFAS to the Huron River in Milford and Washtenaw County. State, county, community officials presented information and answered questions from the audience.
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 through emails, blogs, social networking posts, and media interviews. Sign up to get our email updates and news here:
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
PFAS contamination of Michigan’s waterways is widespread, and the chemicals have been used for decades in many common household products. We’ll need strong, systemic solutions from the state and federal government.
In August 2020, new drinking water standards (known as Maximum Contaminant Levels or MCLs) went into effect for seven specific PFAS chemicals. It was a significant improvement from teh absence of regulatory protections from PFAS exposure before that. But even before the new MCLs were in place, chemical manufacturers and other industries were developing and using replacement chemicals that appear to be similarly toxic as those now regulated.
We need the state to:
- Identify common classes and sub-classes of PFAS chemicals and establish strict drinking water standards for the the entire class. There are more than 4,700 individuals PFAS chemicals in use. Regulating specific chemicals will create an endless “whack-a-mole” problem in which toxic PFAS chemicals are used as replacements for regulated toxic PFAS chemicals.
- Make polluters pay to clean up their own mess, not taxpayers or those drinking contaminated water. The polluter pay laws that were in place before the Governor Engler era should be reinstated, and PFAS chemicals should be included in new polluter pay legislation.
- Expand Part 201 cleanup criteria to include the all seven PFAS chemicals for which drinking water standards have been established.
- Provide more financial and technical support to our communities. The state should increase funding to research the health impacts of PFAS and methods to remove it from drinking water. State agencies need greater capacity for monitoring water resources and communicating their findings.
The federal government should take the following action:
- The Department of Defense should phase out PFAS use in fire-fighting foam and other applications.
- The EPA should strengthen regulations regarding PFAS, including the use of Toxic Substances Control Act authority and develop PFAS drinking water standards.
- Congress should increase research funding to understand how these chemicals affect human health and ecosystem functions.
- The FDA needs to take more leadership in identifying and addressing PFAS contamination in consumable products or food containers.