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How bad is Michigan’s PFAS problem?

How bad is Michigan’s PFAS problem?
August 17, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo by unknown via pixnio.com cc 0.0

A new video from Great Lakes Now

Boiling water doesn’t get rid of it. Residential filters don’t take it out either.

Water Pickup location

Water Pickup location, Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA via flickr

So, once again, we are seeing an all too familiar sight in Michigan: the image of volunteers and others passing out bottled water to residents who’ve been told not to drink the water out of the taps in their homes, businesses or schools. A state of emergency has been declared for two communities.

This time, it isn’t lead. It’s PFAS, a group of chemicals that can cause cancer and other diseases at high levels. And this time, it’s happening on the southwest side of the state instead of in Flint.

Residents of two townships – Parchment and Cooper – in Kalamazoo County – are now dealing with a host of problems that Flint has experienced for several years.

And some of the most difficult problems for the almost 3,000 residents are not knowing how long they’ve been drinking water contaminated with PFAS, or  what it will do to them if they’ve been drinking it at high levels for a long time.

The EPA says 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in drinking water is too high. In Parchment and Cooper townships, the levels are up to 25 times higher than that.

Image by defence.gov.au

Common PFAS Sources, Image by defence.gov.au

Though many people have theories and suspicions, the state says no source of the PFAS in these two communities has been found.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says a special PFAS task force has identified more than 30 PFAS contaminated sites in Michigan, with more than 11,000 potential PFAS-contaminated sites.

The chemical has also been discovered in lakes in Northeast Michigan, in Lake St. Clair which joins Lake Huron and Lake Erie, and along the Huron River where a “DO NOT EAT” fish advisory has gone out for three counties due to PFAS.  Several air force bases in the state are being investigated as the potential source of PFAS contamination in bodies of water from military exercises involving large amounts of fire retardant foam.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, state and local officials announced they’ll begin testing the blood of Rockford and Belmont residents exposed to PFAS in their drinking water, which is believed to be related to exposure caused by shoemaker Wolverine World Wide which dumped PFAS contaminated leather into the ground.

SO: what is PFAS?  Where does the chemical come from? What can it do the human body and to animals?

Greatlakesnow.org decided to try to provide some answers.

Here is Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Bureau’s video, below.

Featured Image: Laboratory testing, Photo by unknown via pixnio.com cc 0.0

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