City Council turns attention to PFAS contamination, police oversight board

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 9:50pm

Ann Arbor City Council member Julie Grand (D-Ward 3) asks a questions after a presentation by the city's water treatment manager during a City Council meeting at City Hall Monday evening.

Ann Arbor City Council member Julie Grand (D-Ward 3) asks a questions after a presentation by the city's water treatment manager during a City Council meeting at City Hall Monday evening. Buy this photo
Matt Vailliencourt/Daily

Ann Arbor’s water treatment plant manager Brian Steglitz spoke to City Council Monday night about contamination warnings along the Huron River, including the expansion of a do-not-eat fish advisory to include a warning against consuming foam from the river.

In August, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced polyfluoroalkyl substance tests showed fish in five counties along the Huron River were contaminated beyond safe levels. PFAS have been linked to health problems including increased risk of cancer and higher cholesterol levels. PFAS compounds are used in various industrial processes and consumer products, such as non-stick cookware and fast food wrappers. Because the PFAS compounds don’t occur naturally, they can take a long time to discompose and harm surrounding areas for longer periods of time.

Steglitz said a do-not-eat foam warning for the Huron River would be issued soon.

We’ve provided some communication to council on the issue of foam in the river recently, and that is something that is going to be coming out in the next couple days, is there will be a do-not-eat the foam amended to the existing fish advisory notifications,” Steglitz said.

PFAS levels in Michigan’s public drinking water systems are not regulated, and while there is a federally designated “health advisory level” of PFAS in drinking water of 70 parts-per-trillion, it is not an enforceable guideline, meaning there is no court-mandated cleanup standards cities and governments have to follow.

City Council’s meeting also included discussions on other topics including a proposal for the formation of a police oversight board, which was debated during a work session at City Hall in March. Since then, City Council has fielded recommendations from citizens about the organization and content of the board. Members of the citizen task force that drafted the proposal argued recommendations made by Lazarus would undermine the oversight board’s independence.  

Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, said she and fellow Councilmembers Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, and Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, would bring forward the task force’s proposal at the next City Council meeting Oct. 1. Kailasapathy said it was “what the residents want from us.”

“I take it as my duty to put forward the ordinance written out by the task force,” she said.

City Council also passed a resolution setting aside $351,670 for a comprehensive transportation plan update from Sam Schwartz Engineering DPC. The plan would ask Sam Schwartz Engineering DPC to recommend implementation methods for multimodal transportation systems with the hopes of zero fatalities on the road.

Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, supported the resolution.

“For those of you have driven in Ann Arbor at the rush hours may use the term gridlock from time to time,” he said. “I actually found out that the term gridlock was first coined by the consultant we’re hiring. He for many years was a senior traffic planner for the city of New York, bringing a lot of traffic congestion solutions to neighborhoods, improving quality of life, as well as taking an incredibly progressive and forward-thinking approach to his practice, as to how do we deal with pedestrians and cyclists in our public right of way to ensure that they are safe when surrounded by cars.”

Eaton voted against the resolution, arguing it was “an inappropriate use” of money.

“This is $351,000 we could be using for actual pedestrian improvements, on street lighting, on (rapid flashing beacons), signage at some of the roundabouts that are poorly marked at best for pedestrians,” he said.