PFAS News Roundup: Michigan health study, Wisconsin deer and fish, possible impact on COVID-19 vaccine

PFAS News Roundup: Michigan health study, Wisconsin deer and fish, possible impact on COVID-19 vaccine
November 19, 2020 Natasha Blakely

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of widespread man-made chemicals that don’t break down in the environment or the human body and have been flagged as a major contaminant in sources of water across the country.

Keep up with PFAS-related developments in the Great Lakes area.

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In East Bay Township, public health officials recently tested drinking water wells following the discovery of high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the groundwater near the Pine Grove subdivision. Health officials confirmed some PFAS levels were discovered in all 15 wells that were tested.

The study, led by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, is recruiting participants from four communities in West Michigan: Parchment and Cooper Township in Kalamazoo County, and Belmont and Rockford in Kent County. Those are areas where historic PFAS contamination is known to have tainted drinking water.

New York:

The state last week labeled the Adirondack Regional Airport, a town-owned airfield near Saranac Lake, a hazardous waste site. Like hundreds of other airports across the country, Adirondack Regional over the years sprayed firefighting foam that contains chemicals now known to cause cancer and other health problems. Tests also found the chemicals in a nearby mobile home park, the Adirondack Airport Community.


The move comes after sampling in private ponds near Tyco’s fire training facility showed fish had PFAS concentrations that would trigger restrictions on eating fish.

A budget amendment sponsored by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and three City Council members requests an additional $50,000 next year for PFAS “testing and planning at the Dane County Regional Airport, Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing Base, and surrounding area.”

The city, along with Dane County and the Wisconsin National Guard, is responsible for investigation and cleanup of suspected contamination at two former training areas near the airport.

The advisory covers an area five miles around what scientists consider to be the center of the issue, the Tyco Fire Technology Center in Marinette. Recent DNR testing shows the livers of 20 deer harvested in the area contained high levels of PFAS.

La Crosse’s aviation board is putting more money into the search for PFAS chemicals in French Island ground water. The board has voted to spend $75,000 on the continuing effort to find pollution from firefighting foam that’s been used at the airport.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is holding online listening sessions on PFAS contamination in Marinette, Peshtigo and surrounding communities.

United States:

“At this stage we don’t know if it will impact a corona vaccination, but it’s a risk,” said Philippe Grandjean, an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health. “We would have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

While communities across the U.S. have been struggling with massive pollution from the military’s use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS, Japan has awoken to its own environmental crisis from the industrial chemicals in the foam. The growing awareness of the issue in Japan is largely due to one reporter: Jon Mitchell, a British investigative journalist based in Tokyo, who has spent years chronicling environmental contamination in the Asia-Pacific region.

His most recent book, “Poisoning the Pacific: The U.S. Military’s Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange,” is based on thousands of pages of documents he obtained from the U.S. military through the Freedom of Information Act; they detail the widespread contamination of bases and the areas surrounding them with PFAS and other hazardous substances, including chemical weapons, Agent Orange, jet fuel, and PCBs.

President-elect Biden pledged in an environmental plan to designate PFAS as hazardous within the Superfund cleanup law, and to set limits for these chemicals in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Superfund law, or CERCLA (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), deals with liability for and remediation of hazardous chemicals.

Catch up with PFAS news on Great Lakes Now:

Michigan PFAS activist has cancer, says she’s not surprised

Citizen Excellence: Sandy Wynn-Stelt receives EPA award for efforts to combat PFAS

Indiana universities receive grants to study PFAS impact on water quality

PFAS News Roundup: PFOS in fish, Wisconsin standards in dispute, lacking regulations in Canada

PFAS News Roundup: Huron River contamination levels drop, New York PFAS cleanup could be delayed

PFAS Progress: Michigan continues legislative push for more action against PFAS

PFAS Around the Great Lakes Region: Actions taken in each state or province and standards set, if any

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Featured image: Wisconsin deer (Photo by Nick Olejniczak via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)


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