In an effort to halt the PFAS contamination of the Huron River from the operations of a wastewater treatment plant in Wixom, state legislators sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services discovered dangerous levels of polyfluoroalkyl in fish samples from five counties along the Huron River in August. The negative health effects of PFAS contamination on humans include cancer, targeting of the immune system, negative impacts on the growth of children and more.
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, was the primary author of the letter, which was also signed by state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, state Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Ann Arbor, state Rep. Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, and state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor. Rabhi said the current PFAS contamination in the Huron River is a health and safety hazard that needs to be addressed immediately.
“We have, in my opinion, a crisis on our hands with the Huron River being contaminated with an unknown toxic chemical,” Rabhi said. “The (Department of Environmental Quality) knows where the source of this is coming from … It’s going into the water that we all drink in Ann Arbor … This is 2018 where we’re supposed to be able to have advanced as a society but instead, it’s this bizarre, almost post-apocalyptic future when you walk down to the Huron River and there’s signs that say you’re not allowed to eat the fish.”
Earlier in September, Brian Steglitz, Ann Arbor’s water treatment plant manager, announced a “do-not-eat foam” warning at an Ann Arbor City Council meeting.
In Michigan, PFAS levels in drinking water are not regulated but rather fall under a federal “health advisory level” that is not enforceable in terms of court-mandated cleanup.
Though stopping production would cause concerns from those working in the plant, Rabhi stressed the plant wouldn’t have to cease all operations. He suggested shutting off the contaminating processes to not make PFAS levels any higher.
“There’s ways to produce what they do without using PFAS chemicals and so it’s just a matter of upgrading their facility to make sure they’re treating their water properly and they should not be allowed to operate until they do that,” Rabhi said.
Rabhi said his hopes for next steps from the DEQ and the governor are an intervention at the wastewater plant and a halt in operations to help mitigate the already damaging effects of the contamination.
“In my ideal world, they would react to the letter by asking the operations to cease at the factory until they cease their problem or at least stop dumping wastewater until they have a way to treat it,” Rabhi said. “What I expect from them, as a legislator, as somebody who represents one of the larger communities that’s impacted by this issue, what I expect for them to do is to be the Department of Environmental Quality and protect the public health of my constituents and the citizens of Michigan that live all up and down the Huron River.”