Skubick: Lawmakers explore depth of PFAS problems


Because of its own challenges with PFAS contamination in the water, Michigan is one of the lead states in the nation on dealing with this latest chemical challenge.  

Today two House committees got an update from state officials on the issue.

The first public health alarm bells went off in Michigan at the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda where  huge amounts of PFAS was discovered in the ground water.

That was followed by a PFAS contamination in north Kent County and the city of Parchment.

Because of those problems, state officials told two House committees today the state is at the front of this latest chemical contamination challenge but with 5,000 potential sources for PFAS in the environment, the state does not have all the answers on what this means for human health.

“We have so much investigation to do to understand what the occurrences of PFAS is out there,” said state health official Mark Sliver. “We’ve made huge gains on water but elsewhere, there’s a lot of question out there.”

The state tested all of the public water supplies, including schools and day care centers, and found only 3 percent had elevated PFAS levels.

That’s about 62 water supplies and bottled water was shipped in where needed.

But the state did not test all of the private home wells in hundreds of neighborhoods.

DEQ director Liesel Clark explained, “25% of Michigan is on private wells so we’ve gotten to wells where there was an immediate problem and got them filtrations if there are challenges.

The DEQ director says it’s up to you if you want to test your own well water.

Of course, the committee wanted to know about the human health impact as 50 percent of the state population has reportedly been exposed.

“If we were to test any one of us in this room for PFAS, we may have it in our blood,” said Dr. Eden Wells of the state health department. “Now, whether that actually causes a health effect is a whole other question.

What researchers theorized, based on a huge contamination in Ohio, is that small amounts do not appear to be a health issue.

“So those amounts, as far as we know now, we’ve not seen health outcomes associated with that,” said Dr. Wells. “We are worried about much higher levels in the blood.”

The governor has called for more state spending on the PFAS challenge in her new budget.  

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