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Huron River PFAS contamination levels drop after 2-year treatment

Ariana Taylor Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Contaminating substances in the Huron River have significantly declined after two years of treatment, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said Thursday. 

EGLE said the decline of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which the FDA describes as a family of human-made chemicals, in the Huron River watershed were thanks to the efforts of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team that worked with local wastewater treatment plants. 

"Baby Swan on the Huron River" by Eric Woelkers of Flat Rock. This shot of a cygnet was made on the Huron River near Oakwoods Metropark.

In July 2018, EGLE found PFAS levels of up to 1,400 parts per trillion in an area of the Huron River downstream from Norton Creek in Oakland County. As of August, the PFAS levels have dropped to a maximum detection of 6.1 parts per trillion. 

Officials believe that Norton Creek was a major source of the Huron River's contamination. That creek's PFAS levels declined by 99.8% from a maximum detection of 5,600 parts per trillion in 2018 to a maximum detection of 12.2 points per trillion in August. 

The original source of the contamination in that area was the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the agency. The city of Wixom and the plant worked together to treat the water in 2018. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a "do not eat fish" advisory in Wixom and Ann Arbor that same year after contaminated fish and surface waters were discovered in the Huron River. 

Since then, EGLE has tested fish from 21 water bodies throughout the Huron River watershed. 

EGLE is currently investigating Regan Drain, including Washago Pond in Wayne County, and Willow Run in Washtenaw and Wayne counties as potential sources of contamination. 

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals, including PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many others, manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, since the 1940s.

There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects, the department said.

PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer products that people use daily, such as cookware, pizza boxes and stain repellants.