TRAVERSE CITY — The public has through month’s end to comment on Michigan’s proposed PFAS concentration limits for drinking water, including opportunities at public hearings.
The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will accept public comments on the proposed maximum contaminant levels for PFAS chemicals through Jan. 31. Officials also have yet to host the last two of three public hearings, first on Tuesday in Ann Arbor and then on Thursday in Roscommon.
The first public hearing was on Jan. 8 in Grand Rapids, not far from the state’s biggest PFAS contamination site, associated with the Wolverine Worldwide’s former tannery. About 150 people attended.
The hope is for that strong level of public participation to continue, said Steve Sliver, executive director of Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team.
“What I gathered from the comments is everyone is supportive of moving forward with state standards,” Sliver said after that first public hearing.
PFAS is an acronym for man-made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances which are known to have negative medical ramifications. Examples include interference with fertility, cholesterol levels and infant and child development, plus increases in the risk of cancers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered state officials to develop enforceable state regulations to protect residents from PFAS contamination in drinking water as federal environmental regulators dragged their feet. She set a deadline of May this year for Michigan.
“We’re still on target to get those promulgated standards,” Sliver said.
Lacey Stephan, Grayling Township supervisor, said he intends to attend the state’s public hearing in Roscommon to listen, and perhaps even testify if he feels it’s necessary.
“There’s going to be a bunch of us there,” Stephan said.
Hundreds of Grayling Township residents are affected by PFAS contamination in the groundwater, the result of decades of firefighters and emergency responders using and practicing at Camp Grayling with a type of firefighting foam that contains the toxic stuff.
Michigan Army National Guard officials have repeatedly confirmed that federal military coffers will pay for safe drinking water solutions for all residents whose well water tests beyond the state’s new standards, once those rules are finalized.
Currently, only Grayling Township homes with well water that tested beyond a federal advisory level for PFAS chemicals will be connected to clean water.
The proposed new rules would mean a big difference for township residents and the number of homes with guaranteed clean drinking water, Stephan said.
“That number would go from 14 to 80-plus,” he said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a non-binding advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for just two of the thousands of chemicals in the PFAS family — PFOA and PFOS. Other states have set more stringent levels.
Minnesota, New Jersey and New York have lower established or proposed thresholds for PFOS at 15 ppt, 13 ppt and 10 ppt, respectively. But Michigan stands to have the lowest numbers for PFOA at 8 ppt and PFNA at 6 ppt, should those recommendation levels be adopted.
Michigan’s ongoing public hearings for PFAS maximum contaminant levels, combined with submitted written comments, amount to the halfway point in the PFAS rule-making process, said Scott Dean, EGLE spokesman.
He said the state agency will have an opportunity to make changes to the proposed PFAS limits for drinking water after the public comment period ends, followed by another review by the Environmental Rules Review Committee.
“They did ask to see it one more time,” Dean said.
The committee was approved by former Gov. Rick Snyder — as a lame duck — which he then stacked with business and industry representatives to serve in a regulatory oversight capacity for EGLE rule-making.
Should the proposed PFAS maximum contaminant level rules again pass through the ERCC, they will be forwarded to the state’s legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for a final review.
Both the public hearings in Ann Arbor and Roscommon are set to begin with open houses at 5 p.m. An agency presentation will be shown at 5:30 p.m. at both meetings, followed by the official start of the hearings at 6 p.m.
More information is available at www.michigan.gov/PFASresponse online.