Whitmer establishes PFAS regulation policy, developing water standards, Action Response Team

Sunday, March 31, 2019 - 9:18pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the establishment of a polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) drinking water standard to be implemented this year.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the establishment of a polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) drinking water standard to be implemented this year. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement saying Michigan will establish polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) drinking water standards this year. PFAS has been an issue for Michiganders and the Ann Arbor community over the past few years and has become increasingly concerning, especially after Ann Arbor reported an increase in PFAS levels since 2016.

PFAS are chemicals used in cookware and water retardant products. Some scientific studies have shown PFAS chemicals can have significant health consequences such as learning and growth impairments in children, weakened immune systems and increased risk of cancer. The EPA’s decision against a PFAS limit in drinking water would mean PFAS chemicals would remain largely unregulated.

“All Michiganders deserve to know that we are prioritizing their health and are working every day to protect the water that is coming out of their taps,” Whitmer said in the press release. “As a result, Michigan will begin the process to establish PFAS drinking water standards that protect public health and the environment.”

Because the Trump administration continues to allow PFAS to be unregulated in the United States’ water bodies, Whitmer determined moving forward independently of the federal government was a necessary action.

“Michigan has long advocated that the federal government establish national standards to protect the nation's water from PFAS contamination, but we can no longer wait for the Trump Administration to act,”Whitmer’s press release read.

Whitmer hopes to be more proactive than the federal government by creating a PFAS Action Response Team. By July 1, 2019, this response team, made up of scientists, should have set the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for Michigan.

Whitmer also provided a deadline of October 1 to create a plan to enforce the MCL.

“Additionally, I’m directing the Department for Environmental Quality to immediately file a Request for Rulemaking to establish enforceable MCLs for PFAS in our drinking water supplies. The proposed regulations will be completed on an accelerated schedule with input from stakeholders by no later than October 1, 2019,” Whitmer wrote in the press release. “These actions will move us a step closer towards finding real and permanent solutions to ensuring that all Michiganders know that they can trust their drinking water.”

Whitmer’s proposal to create the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team has garnered support from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor. Dingell once again called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a national maximum contaminant level for all PFAS compounds so there is one national standard for all water systems to ensure safe drinking water.

“PFAS contamination affects all corners of Michigan,” Dingell wrote in a press release. “Governor Whitmer is taking critical action to address PFAS contaminations and clean up our drinking water. Setting a maximum contaminant level in Michigan this year will make sure all residents know about contamination in a timely manner and we are able to take action to clean it up.”

LSA senior Ben Harshberger, who is studying environmental studies and evolutionary and ecology biology, is pleased by the action Governor Whitmer is taking for Michiganders’ health.

“Even though the Trump administration isn’t concerned over the water quality throughout the United States, it’s nice to know that we live in a state that is not only concerned about the well-being of its citizens, but is also willing to take steps towards prioritizing our health by creating standards for our drinking water,” Harshberger said.

Dingell continued to reveal the scope of the issue nationally and discussed how Whitmer’s policy will benefit Michigan in an issue putting many states in disarray.

“Whitmer’s leadership is needed more than ever since the EPA refuses to act to set one national protective standard for all PFAS chemicals,” Dingell wrote in the press release. “PFAS is not just limited to Michigan or the Great Lakes region. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, and Texas have been hit hard by contamination. And more than 100 military sites from coast to coast have contaminated drinking or groundwater. The time to act is now. If the Administration refuses, Congress will.”