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Cities face new water regulations

ESCANABA — Municipal workers who supply residents with drinking water are learning a revised set of rules approved by Michigan Legislature regarding the PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) allowable limits in Michigan private wells and public water supplies. The new rules were initiated earlier this week, Aug. 3.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), put in force a comprehensive group of regulations limiting PFAS contamination, that surpassed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for PFAS.

PFAS are a large group of manmade chemicals that are resistant to heat, water and oil. They have been found at low levels in the environment and in blood samples of the general population. They are found in food packaging, firefighting foam, household cleaners, microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes by keeping grease from penetrating containers, carpets that resist stains, pipes and wires that resist corrosion, and is used by tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers. More than 3,000 synthetic chemicals are classified as PFAS. The chemical PFOA has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels. The United States has banned it, but the chemical is still around because PFAS do not degrade in the environment. Affects of PFAS are still being studied.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently said Michigan is leading the way nationally in fighting PFAS contamination by setting science-based drinking water standards to protect Michiganders across the state. The new rules provide drinking water standards municipalities will adhere to.

Gladstone Water Treatment Supervisor Rob Spreitzer said he will receive training on the requirements through a webinar Aug. 14. Gladstone has had testing done previously and are within the PFAS limits.

“We have had a little PFOS and PFOA counts in the water here,” said Spreitzer.

As recent as July 17, the Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point in Gladstone has been investigated for PFAS contamination. PFAS contamination was brought to EGLE’s attention April 2014. According to EGLE’s Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) website, EGLE recently sent a notice to the U.S. Air Force, notifying them the Final Second Five-Year Review submitted by the U.S.A.F. was not

completed properly and the remedy at the site was not protective of human health and environment.

This summer, EGLE and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are taking fish tissue samples in Little Bay de Noc, offshore from the site, to determine if the fish population is effected by PFAS.

Residents around the site should not be concerned, according to EGLE there is no known impact to drinking water.

Michigan’s regulations, limiting seven PFAS chemicals in drinking water, will cover approximately 2,700 public water supply systems around the state and exceed current EPA guidelines.

The City of Manistique Landfill in Schoolcraft County, K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette County, and the former Kinchelue Air Force Base in Chippewa County are all areas in the Upper Peninsula MPART is watching.

The new regulations have an effect on existing groundwater clean-up criteria also. Previously PFOS and PFOA could register no higher than 70 ppt, now the new groundwater standard will be 16 ppt for PFOS and 8 ppt for PFOA. By lowering the ppt number almost 40 additional PFAS sites have been added to Michigan PFAS investigation sites.

MPART, made from MDHHS, EGLE, and other state agencies, created the new regulations after studying data on PFAS and consulting other experts. Roughly 30 public water systems were found to have total PFAS results of 10 ppt or higher during MPART’s 2018 statewide sampling program and ongoing surveys. Compliance to the new ruleset will be determined by the sample results.

MPART agencies will assist public water systems to bring their water into compliance over the upcoming months.

EGLE has sampled all municipal water supplies for PFAS in the city of Escanaba.

“Escanaba drinking water is in good shape,” said Escanaba Water Superintendent Jeff Lampi. “We only had two occasions out of six or eight samples, measuring two ppt. Overall we’re in really good shape.”

Lampi acknowledged the new recommendations could change in the way labs analyze the samples.

“However, things are going to change in lab analysis … there could be new perimeters and regulations in testing,” said Lampi. “We’ve been proactive in the forefront and worked with EGLE and we’re very confident in our drinking water today.”

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