Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday ordered that the state and local agencies develop a readiness plan for when chemical contamination is discovered in Michigan.

The governor said in a statement that this order is needed to ensure Michigan has a plan in place to respond to any outbreak of PFAS, a group of chemicals used in manufacturing, firefighting and common household items as well as other consumer products.

In late July, state officials intervened in the Kalamazoo-area communities of Parchment city and Cooper Township because testing showed a concentration of more than 1,500 parts per trillion of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances coming from Parchment's water supply.

It was more than 20 times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. Residents were ordered not to drink tap water, and bottled water was made available until the water system was connected to the Kalazmazoo system.

The contamination was discovered because Michigan went beyond a 2012 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that requires testing for PFAS only in communities with 10,000 or more people. Parchment has an estimated 1,844 people.  

"Michigan is leading the nation in addressing this emerging contaminant," Snyder said in a statement. "To ensure we continue to lead on this issue and protect all Michiganders, we need a framework that allows all agencies to respond quickly and effectively to contamination in our communities. Under this directive, Michigan will have a readiness plan in place to ensure a timely and successful response to PFAS threats.”

Under the governor's directive, MPART will help coordinate with the state Department of Health and Human Services and state emergency management coordinators and local health officials to make sure the plan is implemented.

Michigan has 35 contamination sites — a list that includes Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River in Macomb County, a small community water supply in Parchment, residential wells around a Rockford tannery in West Michigan, and marshes, rivers and lakes around military bases in Oscoda, Alpena and Grayling.

The state has responded aggressively to the man-made threat in recent months and has been applauded by Alan Robertson, executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. But critics argue the response prior to 2016 was slowed by a lack of understanding of the chemicals’ widespread presence and dangerous health effects.

Twitter: @leonardnfleming

Read or Share this story: