Editorial: Water safety must be top priority
The state of Michigan has taken several proactive steps this week to address the safety of its water — and waterways. In a state so dependent on the Great Lakes, this is especially important.
After the bungling of the Flint water crisis, state and federal officials learned the huge ramifications of the government not doing enough to protect its citizens.
Any potential environmental risk must be taken extremely seriously, and dealt with in a timely fashion.
Reports of the chemical contaminant PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) around Michigan have recently sparked concern. So it’s good that Gov. Rick Snyder is making sure the state is ready to address the problem.
On Tuesday, Snyder ordered state and local agencies to put together a readiness plan for when contamination is discovered, as a precaution and a supplement to other action already underway.
The new Michigan PFAS Action Response Team will “work diligently to help communities respond to PFAS contamination that threatens public health and safety,” according to a statement from Snyder.
“Michigan is leading the nation in addressing this emerging contaminant,” Snyder said. Under this directive, Michigan will have a readiness plan in place to ensure a timely and successful response to PFAS threats.”
PFAS, chemicals used in manufacturing, firefighting and household supplies, made headlines earlier this summer after several Kalamazoo-area communities had high levels of the chemicals in the water supply. The level found there was more than 20 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s health recommendation.
The state immediately stepped in and told residents to move to bottled water until a solution could be found.
The Detroit News has reported that Michigan has 35 contamination sites, including Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River in Macomb County.
The directive will ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services will work with state emergency management coordinators and local public health department directors to develop the readiness plan.
Similarly, the federal government is getting more involved. The EPA plans to hold a roundtable in Kalamazoo on Friday with state and local leaders on PFAS contamination in drinking water. Members of the Michigan congressional delegation plan to attend.
And news Wednesday that Canadian oil company Enbridge has said it will pay for construction of a roughly four-mile tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac should alleviate long held concerns about the reliability and safety of its Line 5 pipeline.
The deal would “provide permanent protection for our Great Lakes,” said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether.
Negotiations are still ongoing, but Enbridge has made an initial agreement with Snyder’s administration.
These are both positive developments that should help avoid health disasters for Michiganians for years to come.