Michigan House OK's bill clarifying cleanup criteria for contaminated sites

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Equipment used to test for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals) in drinking water at Trident Laboratories in Holland.

Lansing — The Michigan House narrowly approved Tuesday a bill meant to bring clarity to the cleanup process for sites contaminated with toxic or harmful chemicals.

In a tight 56-53 vote, the bill was approved and proceeds back to the Senate for concurrence. The legislation, approved 6-3 in committee Tuesday morning, would allow landowners to get contaminated property redeveloped and back on the market in a shorter time frame by updating the existing law, said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland.

The bill would require the department to use toxicity values from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, for cleanup criteria. If IRIS has no toxicity value for the substance, the bill identifies other sources for those benchmarks in order of precedence or allows the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to develop cleanup criteria.

The bill would allow officials to account for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the clean-up process, said Stamas, noting the legislation "doesn’t preclude better information (on emerging threats) as we move forward."

“The improvements in the bill ensure Michigan will remain a national leader in cleaning up Brownfield properties,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids opposed the bill on the House floor, arguing that the legislation would tie the hands of the department from adopting criteria unique to Michigan's environment and remediation needs.

"This anti-science bill is not just poor policy, it is downright dangerous," Brinks said.

Stamas noted that the cleanup process detailed in his bill will be funded under separate legislation since the Clean Michigan funds typically used for cleanup efforts have run dry.

Opponents argued the timeline for the legislation’s approval prevents environmental experts from seriously vetting the bill or its funding source. Furthermore, the bill increases the bureaucracy involved in the cleanup process, said Nick Occhipinti, of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

“We can’t get this done thoughtfully in lame duck,” Occhipinti said.

Potential development deals have been snarled by a lengthy process that at times complicates the financing process, said Jason Geer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has been advocating for changes to the law for several years.

The current process has provided “little certainty,” Geer said, noting that the bill as it stands presents a compromise in which each stakeholder “moved to the center.”


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