As Ann Arbor’s fourth annual deer cull approaches, some have raised concerns regarding the safety of donating venison to local soup kitchens. Many deer in the area drink from the Huron River, which the Department of Environmental Quality found this summer contains the toxic chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFAS.
In October, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a “Do Not Eat” advisory for deer within five miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township due to PFAS levels found in the animals. Though the Huron River contains some PFAS, Hayner said the Clark’s Marsh area provided the deer with a uniquely high amount of PFAS exposure.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it bio-accumulated in Ann Arbor deer, because this Clark’s Marsh area, it was like they were swimming in the stuff, practically,” City Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, who was elected Nov. 6 after focusing on environmental issues in his campaign, said.
Though Hayner doubts Ann Arbor deer carry a dangerous level of PFAS, he said he would be interested in testing them.
“It’s a relatively easy test,” Hayner said. “You just take a bit of muscle tissue and send it to one of the EPA-certified labs.”
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, said the council has not yet had the chance to discuss the implications of PFAS on the safety of venison consumption, but she intends to inquire about the issue. According to MLive, City spokeswoman Lisa Wondrash said the city’s staff is in contact with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Human Services, but they have not yet received an answer.
“I take it very seriously,” Griswold said. “It’s just that there are so many things that are at the top of my priority list and this isn’t really timely in November, so I’ll definitely look into it in December.”
Griswold said she will not plan to donate deer meat if it contains unsafe levels of PFAS.
“I would not support giving deer meat to any organization unless we were confident that it didn’t have a dangerous level of PFAS,” Griswold said.
At a previous City Council meeting, Brian Steglitz, manager of the Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant, explained that while PFAS has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems, the risks are relatively unknown right now.
“The challenge with PFAS is that it is emerging,” Steglitz said. “We don’t have all the information we really need to assess what the risks are and what the safe levels are. I think a lot of that is going to come in the coming months and maybe even years.”
Though the council has not yet addressed the concerns with PFAS levels in deer meat yet, Hayner said he has received a fair amount of interest from locals in the issue.
“It hasn’t been brought up, but our next meeting is on Dec. 3 and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone brought it up,” Hayner said. “I’ve got a few emails about it already.”