Opinion: We must do more to combat water contamination
With Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or “PFAS” being identified in a growing number of Michigan’s community water systems, it is apparent that this is a serious public health concern that must be acted upon quickly.
The PFAS group of chemicals has been widely used in a variety of products since the 1950s. More recently, the chemical’s presence in firefighting foams, which are commonly used at airports and military bases, including Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, is suspected to be the source of contamination in drinking water systems and bodies of water across the state and around the country.
Testing has shown these harmful contaminants flowing from Selfridge into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair, which serve as the source of drinking water for tens of thousands of residents. Testing has also identified more than 30 other Michigan sites with PFAS contamination – most recently resulting in a state of emergency declaration in Kalamazoo County. Test results for many other communities have not yet been received.
While the state has not been sitting idle – it has already taken a number of important steps to address the issue – there is considerably more to be done.
I am currently working on legislation to regulate the handling, storage, disposal and clean-up of PFAS chemicals in Michigan, so that we can reduce the chances of future contamination, and provide guidelines for cleaning-up and disposing of what is already in our environment. With similar contamination being reported all across the country, this legislation may well become a model for other states to use in crafting their own laws to protect their residents.
These bills will complement the $60 million in funds that the legislature has already budgeted to help Michigan communities and families affected by PFAS contamination and to assist the state to respond quickly and effectively to future reports of contamination.
Included in the funding is approximately $1.5 million dedicated to improving the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s water testing laboratory, which was not previously equipped to test for PFAS. Water samples are currently being shipped out of state for analysis, leaving Michigan families waiting eight weeks or more to hear the outcome. Upgrading the state’s lab will ensure more timely, reliable results.
In addition, a Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) has been formed to bring experts from various state departments together, so they can work cohesively to address PFAS concerns in communities all across the state.
The legislature also adopted a resolution that calls for the creation of an advisory committee, made up of experts, who will help MPART focus on the scientific aspects of this issue, and provide non-biased recommendations to help guide our efforts to combat PFAS.
PFAS contamination is a complex issue that Michigan will likely be dealing with for many years to come. It’s important that we continue to be proactive in order to protect the health and well-being of Michigan families.
State Rep. Peter J. Lucido represents Michigan’s 36th District.