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HBO Audience: John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” features the impact of PFAS on Michigan residents

HBO Audience: John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” features the impact of PFAS on Michigan residents
October 5, 2021 Natasha Blakely

Finding out their toddler had the highest-known level of PFAS in his blood of anyone in the United States was devastating to Seth and Tobyn McNaughton. The discovery that her well water was contaminated with those same industrial chemicals forced Sandy Wynn-Stelt to use water processed through a complicated pump in her basement that she’s nicknamed “Megatron.”

Both scenes were first part of Great Lakes Now’s Emmy-winning documentary “The Forever Chemicals” and are now featured in John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” program on HBO.

The PFAS crisis that the McNaughtons, Wynn-Stelt and many others are experiencing is a familiar story to many around the Great Lakes region and particularly in Michigan. But now even more national and international viewers learned about the problem after the comedy news show’s broadcast last weekend and posting of the segment on YouTube.

The Forever Chemicals” was produced by Great Lakes Now in 2019 and was largely based on the reporting of MLive Reporter Garret Ellison. The documentary followed a number of west Michigan families that live near and have been impacted by a Wolverine World Wide dump site rife with PFAS waste.

In the Last Week Tonight episode, they used clips describing the McNaughtons’ experience as well as a clip from Wynn-Stelt showing the extensive and cumbersome filtration system that Wolverine paid to install in her house.

“All it takes is a four-tank system affectionately named ‘Megatron,’ a spare room large enough to house it, and a weekly visit from the tank technician for the rest of your life. Water problem? More like ‘what’s your problem?’ This is a system that f—ing works!” Oliver joked after the segment.

Wolverine has since settled with the state of Michigan and two Grand Rapids-area townships as well as with the McNaughtons, though many other cases including Wynn-Stelt’s are still pending in court.

Catch more PFAS updates on Great Lakes Now at our page on PFAS.

Watch Great Lakes Now‘s full documentary on PFAS here:

Learn more and catch updates in this playlist of all Great Lakes Now videos and segments on PFAS:

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