Paying for PFAS: Great Lakes states grapple with costs of clean up

Paying for PFAS: Great Lakes states grapple with costs of clean up
March 25, 2019 Gary Wilson, Great Lakes Now

Clean up of toxic sites is expensive.

And for some Great Lakes governors, the emerging issue of a family of chemicals known as PFAS – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — is coming at a time when they are making arguments to raise taxes to fund other statewide needs.

For example, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is proposing a 45-cents-a-gallon gas tax for overdue road maintenance, and in Wisconsin, roads along with schools and health care are spending priorities for some of the political leadership.

PFAS chemicals have been used in the manufacturing of many household goods and products and waterproofing materials as well as at airports and some military sites. They’ve appeared in drinking water in dozens of Midwestern communities, and research has not been conclusive about what, exactly, the long-term effects on humans are.

Great Lakes Now canvassed the eight states to determine how much, if any specific funding has been budgeted to deal with PFAS. Responses varied widely:

Image courtesy of Lewis Cass via Wikimedia

Michigan: The state has approximately $48 million budgeted in 2019 for PFAS with the departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services receiving the most funding, according to Scott Dean.

That money was approved by the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature. Whitmer has proposed $30 million for PFAS in her just-released budget that is pending approval by the legislature.

Image by the State of New York via wikimedia

New York: In October 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the availability of $185 million in grant money to upgrade drinking water systems giving cities with PFAS issues a priority.


Image by the state of Wisconsin via wikimedia

Wisconsin: New Gov. Tony Evers has proposed $200,000 for PFAS modeling and surveying.


Image by the State of Minnesota via wikimedia

Minnesota: “No money is allocated to PFAS issues” said Walker Smith, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

3M Company reimburses Minnesota for its PFAS expenses based on a 2010 legal damage settlement resulting from 3M’s disposal of PFAS that Minnesota alleged damaged drinking water and natural resources.

Image by the State of Indiana via wikimedia

Indiana: Money for PFAS is “folded into the water quality management budget,” Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Bruno Pigott said making it difficult to determine a specific amount.

Image by the State of Ohio via wikimedia

Ohio: New Gov. Mike DeWine recently proposed $900 million over 10 years for clean water programs but amounts for specific contaminant programs like PFAS are not now available, said Ohio EPA spokesperson Heidi Griesmer. If approved, the bulk of that funding is widely expected to go to Lake Erie programs.

Pennsylvania and Illinois agencies did not respond.


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