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PFAS News Roundup: Minnesota requiring businesses to monitor, PFAS impact on COVID vaccine, new New York standards

PFAS News Roundup: Minnesota requiring businesses to monitor, PFAS impact on COVID vaccine, new New York standards
November 18, 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.

Click on the headline to read the full story:

Illinois:

Environmental groups have sent a letter noting their intent to sue over releases of toxic PFAs as part of a firefighting effort at the troubled Sugar Camp mine in downstate Illinois. The move is meant to trigger action from state or federal agencies or otherwise hold the mine owners accountable for the latest in a long string of violations at Illinois’ largest mine.

Michigan:

Pellston residents can expect a call to set up a water testing appointment as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services gets ready to see if PFAS levels have changed in the area’s drinking water.

The first phase of PFAS tests at the Battle Creek Executive Airport showed PFAS in a majority of soil and groundwater samples, according to a report shared Monday.

In some of the samples, PFAS levels were found to be higher than the Michigan cleanup standard.

As part of the Nov. 3 community meeting hosted by the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) – regarding the WAFB/Oscoda Area PFAS environmental investigation – Clark’s Marsh-related updates were provided by Dr. Wes Flynn of Purdue University, as well as Aquatic Biologist Lee Schoen of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 19 other attorneys general from around the country, calling for the U.S. Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee to take action on federal health and environmental protections to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to the state.

Minnesota:

State regulators will ask a wide swath of businesses, manufacturers, landfills and municipalities to start monitoring for a class of industrial chemicals known as PFAS, a major health and environmental threat across the country.

The results could offer one of the most comprehensive understandings yet of exactly where PFAS contamination is still coming from. The substances, known as “forever chemicals,” do not break down in the environment.

New York:

Riverhead is seeking grant funding from New York State to help the Riverhead Water District provide public water to an area of Calverton near the terminus of the Long Island Expressway where health-threatening contaminants have been identified in private drinking water wells.

Recently, the NYS Drinking Water Quality Council recommended designating seven PFAS as “emerging contaminants” (PFNA, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFHxA, PFPeA, PFBA, and PFBS). Should the NYS Department of Health accept the recommendation through a formal rulemaking process, water utilities across the state would be required to test for these toxic chemicals and notify the public if elevated levels are detected.

Wisconsin:

The Dane County Board on Thursday approved a proposal that will require additional public reporting on PFAS contamination and seek more information on how much power the county has to regulate or halt airport projects if soil is too contaminated.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing Thursday on its proposed permanent rule that would outline appropriate testing, treatment, storage, containment and disposal of PFAS foam under Act 101. The law bans the use of PFAS foam except in emergencies and limited circumstances.

The Department of Natural Resources is now taking public comment on a proposed rule to regulate PFAS and other forever chemicals.

That includes what has to be done to dispose of the chemicals, and how people who use fire-fighting foam have to respond to spills. At a public hearing on Thursday, Erik Cantor from Clean Wisconsin says the new rules don’t go far enough.

In July, the city announced four of its 16 wells had been taken offline after testing showed PFAS levels exceeded the combined groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion that’s recommended by state health officials. Now, the city has voluntarily stopped using three more wells after additional testing showed a mix of PFAS chemicals that are concerning to state health officials.

A Manitowoc manufacturer has notified the state of the presence of toxic “forever chemicals” on its property, but it will not impact drinking water in the city.

Skana Aluminum said in a release Thursday that PFOA, one of the most well-known PFAS chemicals, was found on its grounds during recent testing.

Drinking water for Manitowoc residents is unlikely to be impacted by the chemicals because the city draws its water from Lake Michigan instead of groundwater like other cities in Wisconsin.

After detecting elevated levels of per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, called PFAS, in its drinking water supplies, city of Eau Claire utility staff moved to test more samples, shut off wells where contamination was identified and cut off the flow of these “forever chemicals.”

National:

3M has temporarily shut down some operations at a factory in Belgium after environmental regulators there banned emissions of PFAS.

It appears to be the first time any regulator globally has moved to stop production of PFAS, a controversial class of chemicals that 3M pioneered decades ago.

New draft reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found that two “forever chemicals” are more toxic than previously thought, and that one is likely carcinogenic to humans.

The drafts found the safe levels of ingestion for chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are much lower than the agency had found in prior assessments.

Previous studies have suggested that exposure to the chemicals can worsen lung function, and possibly reduce a person’s response to other types of vaccines. But there’s no data showing the effects of PFAS exposure on COVID-19 or the vaccines currently being administered. Researchers around the world are now seeking answers.


Catch up on more PFAS news on Great Lakes Now:

PFAS News Roundup: Michigan airport under investigation, disagreement over Wisconsin state regulations

PFAS News Roundup: Michigan works on transparency, 3M could cost the Minnesota public billions, study recruitment in Michigan

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

The middle of a massive contamination’: Residents of Wisconsin region struggle with aftereffects of dangerous ‘forever chemicals’

Raining PFAS: Amount of PFAS found is outpacing legacy contaminants


Featured image: Sign warning for environmental contamination (Great Lakes Now Episode 1012)

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