Opinion: Mich. needs high environmental standards

Dave Petroelje

Despite our state’s ongoing challenges with contaminated drinking water, Michigan recently passed legislation that would block the state from implementing any standards stronger than the minimum protections approved by the federal government – even if the people of Michigan demand them.

This legislation, “No Stricter than Federal,” would have negative impacts on our economy, our environment and the health of Michiganians across the state. Gov. Rick Snyder must act in the best interest of Michigan, and veto HB 4205 immediately.

As the owner of a Michigan brewery, I am particularly concerned about the impact this ill-conceived legislation would have on Michigan’s drinking water and the health of our Great Lakes. Fresh water is the main ingredient in my product and is essential to the financial success of my business. Brewing and Agriculture are two of the largest industries in our state, representing over $125 billion in annual revenue – all of which relies heavily on fresh water.

At the intersection of Parchment's Travis and North 20th street, a hydrant flushes water from the system into a creekbed. The hydrant has been running since the PFAS crisis was announced Assorted views of Parchment, MI, named after the paper factories that it grew up around.  Now the paper factories are gone but they have left behind a legacy of pollution including the newest menace:  PFAS. Photo made on Sept 20, 2018 in Parchment, Michigan.

I grew up during severe drought in California and relocated to Michigan as an adult because I was drawn to the beauty of the Great Lakes and the unparalleled abundance of fresh water. I can’t imagine living anywhere else and as a Michigan citizen and business owner, I feel it is a responsibility to protect our most valuable asset.

My business, City Built Brewery has been in business for just over a year and a half, employing 45 people full and part time and serves hundreds of people every week. None of this would be possible without clean water.

Not addressing Michigan’s unique water quality issues leaves the spigot open for the next Flint water crisis and to further solidify Michigan’s growing reputation for having “bad water.” If Michigan is forced to rely on minimum protections from the federal government, it will severely limit our ability to act on new and emerging threats in the future, such as chemical contaminants like PFAS.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are continuously being found in Michigan’s water supply and are said to be “Michigan’s next water crisis.” They have been linked to cancer, low infant birth rates, and hormone disruption. Thus far, there are 36 confirmed PFAS sites around Michigan, but the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) estimates there could be as many as 11,300 potential sites where PFAS may have been used. Already, there are 1.5 million people in Michigan who have been drinking municipal water contaminated with PFAS, including areas around the cities of Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Legislation that restricts Michigan’s ability to set strict standards for PFAS and other threats to our water is short-sighted and will be detrimental to the future of Michigan’s economy and way of life. We cannot leave the responsibility to the federal government. I think about the mysteries of cancer, thyroid disease and other illnesses that many Michiganders struggle with…how many cases could be linked back to PFAS and other toxic chemicals found in our drinking water? The science is still evolving, and it is crucial that we use the most current data and technology to begin to solve this issue. The health of Michigan’s environment and economy depend upon our ability to make standards stricter than federal laws, when necessary. Now is that time.

Snyder, take this opportunity to clean up your reputation and to allow the future leaders of Michigan to begin to clean up our water. Please act in the best interest of the people and businesses of the state of Michigan and Veto HB 4205 immediately.

Dave Petroelje is the founder and owner of City Built Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids.