PFAS News Roundup: Minnesota sets new PFAS blueprint, Biden EPA dumps PFAS assessment over ‘political interference’

PFAS News Roundup: Minnesota sets new PFAS blueprint, Biden EPA dumps PFAS assessment over ‘political interference’
February 12, 2021 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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The 1.5 million Michigan residents the state said have been drinking water contaminated with PFAS could be at higher risk for severe COVID-19, according to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Officials said it happened during required testing of one of the Pellston Airport’s onsite crash trucks. About a gallon’s worth of firefighting foam, which contains PFAS, discharged through the roof turret of the truck. Representatives from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said the spill may have partially been a result of human error and equipment failure.


Minnesota’s PFAS Blueprint would move the state well beyond its environmental damages settlement with 3M Co. to nail the sources of ongoing contamination, prevent it and clean it up. The plan calls for clearly designating the entire class of man-made chemicals called PFAS as a “hazardous substance” in state law, for example, and would require companies to disclose any PFAS they use to regulators.

Some 20 years after first confronting the contaminating-effects of human-made “forever chemicals,” the state of Minnesota introduced a blueprint Wednesday for how to prevent, manage and clean up contamination from those chemicals.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s blueprint seeks legislative solutions, including the designation of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as hazardous substances. The blueprint also seeks funding to begin broader sampling for the presence of PFAS in drinking water, fish and places such as Duluth’s Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.

New York:

Already under intense scrutiny from environmental advocates and local elected officials, the Norlite plant in Cohoes is facing new clean air violations from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. But environmentalists are also taking aim at the DEC.


The La Crosse Common Council voted Thursday to approve hiring two law firms to represent the city in litigation against chemical companies involved in the PFAS contamination. This move comes the same week residents of French Island, where the contamination took place, filed claims against the city in regards to the pollution.

More than 100 wells have been tested near the La Crosse airport, but Carol Engle-Drury, an environmental health manager for La Crosse County, says the PFAS chemicals have not turned up in other places.

The PFAS have been traced to firefighting foam used at the city-owned airport, and one local attorney suggests the city of La Crosse could be sued over the contamination.

Engle-Drury tells a county committee that the well testing might be expanded in the near future.

United States:

The EPA announced Feb. 9 that it was removing from its website the toxicity assessment for PFBS, or perfluorobutanesulfonic acid, a PFAS compound that’s one of seven similar chemicals regulated by state law in Michigan public drinking water under rules passed last year.

The agency, which is under interim leadership pending Senate approval of North Carolina regulator Michael Reagan as administrator, says the action comes under a Jan. 27 Biden memorandum aimed at “restoring trust in government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking.”

Regan said at his Feb. 3 confirmation hearing that he plans to “restructure” the EPA and place an environmental justice official in each of the agency’s regulatory offices—three focused separately on air, water, and land pollution plus one centered on chemical safety. He told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which held the hearing, that he would seek additional funding for these new positions and for an environmental justice adviser to the EPA administrator.

PFAS regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act is coming under the Biden administration. CMBG3 Law’s John P. Gardella discusses how businesses—including those that permissibly discharge effluents into waterways—can plan now to reduce business interruption and financial losses stemming from PFAS regulation.

Catch up on more PFAS news on Great Lakes Now:

PFAS News Roundup: PFAS found in Indigenous household wells, Wisconsin experimental treatment fails, WDNR fish concerns

PFAS News Roundup: PFAS in Lake Superior smelt, McDonalds drops PFAS packaging, White House weakened EPA guidelines

Nonstick pans often don’t note they use PFAS

Wisconsin releases action plan to reduce PFAS chemical use

PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous. A Pitt scientist is working to protect you from thousands of types at once.

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

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Featured image: EPA seal


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