Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

PFAS in Michigan Waterways

In a state surrounded by 80% of our nation’s fresh surface water, it is critical we protect our water from harmful pollutants like PFAS, the industrial “forever” chemicals discharged into our waterways.

In Michigan — a state surrounded by 80 percent of our nation’s fresh surface water — communities have every right to clean, safe drinking water. Unfortunately, the pervasion of PFAS in Michigan’s waterways has shaken the confidence of communities from Rockford to Detroit and put public health at risk. Although the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has put people first and undertaken comprehensive testing and remediation efforts to identify PFAS contamination, we must ensure that our state continues to protect our public health and hold PFAS polluters accountable.

Threatening Our Public Health

PFAS are a class of “forever” chemicals that are commonly used to make products grease- or water-proof. They are used in cookware, food packaging, outdoor apparel, carpets, and firefighting foams, and are often discharged into waterways after they are used in industrial processes. PFAS have been linked to a host of health problems including cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression, and reproductive issues. PFAS are especially dangerous because they are toxic in miniscule amounts (to the parts per trillion) and they are notoriously long-lasting in the environment and build up in the human body. As a result, these chemicals are a significant public health risk. Currently, the state of Michigan is #1 in PFAS sites, with over 200 sites identified across the state.

Michigan Leads by Putting People First

  • In 2020, Michigan became the first state to set its own health-based standards for regulating PFAS contamination, lowering the maximum groundwater contamination levels for six different PFAS chemicals. Most notably, the state lowered the standards from 70 ppt for PFOS and PFOA, to 16 ppt and 8 ppt respectively, which is more in line with health based criteria.
  • As part of the year-long process to develop new PFAS contaminant levels, Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) partnered with academic institutions, businesses, and public health professionals to review scientific and health data to ensure that the new standards put people first.
  • As a result of the lowering of the maximum contaminant levels, MPART added 38 more sites to its PFAS investigation sites tracker. Sites on this list not only receive regular testing from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, but they also are eligible to receive remediation funding from the state.

Action Needed To Protect Our Drinking Water

  • Enact legislation only allowing essential uses of PFASs, and enforce labeling to indicate uses.
  • Ban all use of PFAS in food packaging, fire-fighting foams, textiles, and other non-essential products.
  • Require manufacturers of PFAS to conduct more extensive toxicological testing, make chemical structures public, provide validated analytical methods for detection of PFASs, assume extended producer responsibility, and implement safe disposal of products and stockpiles containing PFAS.
  • As the science becomes available, add PFAS to the list of hazardous chemicals regulated under the Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) so that clean up of contaminated sites can be completed as quickly as possible.
  • Continue funding efforts to track and clean up sites that have been previously contaminated by PFAS.
  • Hold companies financially responsible for remediation of PFAS contamination and the harm that these chemicals do to communities.