What that means for local communities
State officials announced this week that they had officially completed the first phase of Michigan’s yearlong sampling effort for traces of per- and polyflouroalkyls (PFAS) in water supplies.
A coalition called the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) had been collecting water samples in each Michigan county throughout the course of last year, searching for occurrences of PFAS. For 86 of the 88 sites sampled in Emmet and Charlevoix counties, nothing much will change as a result of those samples. In large part, they returned no evidence of PFAS, or relatively low amounts. But for a couple of sites — both in Charlevoix County — there is more testing yet to be done.
Samples from both the Boyne Falls Public School and the Walloon Lake Water System fell within the 10- to 70-parts-per-trillion range for combined PFAS. According to a press release from the Department of Environmental Quality, the state will continue to fund quarterly testing at those sites into the future.
“Protecting the public remains our top priority,” Michigan Department of Environmental Quality director Liesl Clark said in the press release. “MPART will continue to work with communities with detections of PFAS in their water to help them investigate and take action to drive down exposure levels.”
PFAS were developed in the 1940s, and are commonly found in nonstick and non-stain materials, as well as in firefighting foam. Evidence suggests ingesting the chemicals can lead to serious health risks.
Boyne Falls Public Schools and the Walloon Lake Water System are among the entities — including 35 municipal systems, 19 schools and eight day care sites — around the state that fall into the “greater than 10 parts per trillion” category for PFAS levels. Neither of the Charlevoix County entities are at the very top of the list. The Walloon Lake Water System returned a result of 19 ppt from one of its samples taken on Aug. 29, 2018, and Boyne Falls Public Schools returned a result of 41 ppt from its Sept. 4 sample. And levels for PFOA and PFOS — the two types of PFAS for which the EPA has set a 70 ppt “lifetime health advisory” recommendation — were below 10 ppt.
But the readings for the school district and water system are not nothing. Research is still contested as to what level should be considered “dangerous,” but several sources suggest the standards should be much stricter than the 70 ppt figure.
At the very least, MDEQ spokesman Scott Dean said levels like the ones seen in Charlevoix County suggest there is a specific source for the PFAS, rather than it just being a fluke occurrence.
Aside from offering basic monitoring for the good of public safety, he said regular, quarterly tests will help expand the knowledge of PFAS in general, providing a number of unforeseen benefits.
“Obviously, we want to keep a handle on it and make sure their numbers aren’t increasing,” he said. “We also want to see if there is any seasonality to the results — to see if by testing at various times a year, it will impact the levels. Sometimes we have seen levels spike during different weather events.”
He added that, with consistent monitoring, the state has a better chance of figuring out where the specific source is and hopefully driving down the PFAS levels.
“(The completion of these samples) is a major milestone, and the first of its kind in the nation,” Dean said. “But this is just the first step. Our work isn’t done; we still have more work to do.”
Source: Petoskey News