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perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive directive yesterday to deal with PFAS and PFC contamination around the state.

Snyder has established a task force called the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, which will coordinate efforts by local, state and federal agencies to keep residents safe from these chemicals.

East Rockford Middle School
Rockford Public Schools

One West Michigan school community can feel more at ease. Water samples from East Rockford Middle School were tested, and show no signs of toxic chemicals.

The chemicals that were tested for are known as PFAS, and they are often used to waterproof leather goods.

MDEQ

Health officials in Kent County plan to investigate whether there are cancer clusters near waste dump sites once used by  the shoemaker Wolverine World Wide tannery in Rockford.

Brian Hartl, an epidemiologist with the Kent County Health Department, joined Stateside today to explain what the department knows now, and how it plans to move forward.

Courtesy Photo / Air National Guard | Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer

A combat center in northern Michigan has become the third military installation in the state to test positive for contaminated groundwater.

Capt. Brian Blumline says preliminary results came in this week for tests conducted at five locations at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center earlier this year. He says all the sites showed elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctyl sulfonate.

The contaminants are from fire-fighting foam that used to be involved in training at the base.

water faucet
Laura Nawrocik / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is investigating whether a shoe manufacturer is responsible for water contamination in West Michigan.

In the 1960s, Wolverine Worldwide used a licensed dump site near Rockford to get rid of waste from its leather tanning process. Two chemicals used in the process, PFOS and PFOA, are now showing up in nearby residential wells.

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Grayling water officials announced in July they had found trace amounts of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, in the municipal water supply. The levels are nowhere near the concentration of PFCs considered to be a health hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency.

David Andrews, senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group spoke with Stateside to help us understand this mysterious family of chemicals and explore exactly what the news means for the Grayling area.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Grayling water officials say they’ve discovered “trace” amounts of a type of perfluorinated chemical in the city’s drinking water wells. The levels are far below a health advisory put out by the U.S. EPA.

Grayling Department of Public Works Superintendent Kyle Bond says they first tested for the family of chemicals known as PFCs in May.

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Massive defense spending bills in Congress would require the federal government to study the health effects of  perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Groundwater near military bases in Michigan is polluted with the chemicals.

Both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct the study. An amendment in the House version of the bill would require the Pentagon to develop an alternatives to using PFCs.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

Image used with permission from Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

A new study found fluorinated chemicals in one third of the fast food packages researchers tested. The chemicals keep oil and grease from leaking through.

The researchers found that out of 407 food packages tested, 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals.

Scientists have found this class of chemicals doesn't break down in the environment, and some kinds of fluorinated chemicals are linked to health problems.

A map of the area in Oscoda Township surrounding the now closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base is shown. The red area is the base, while the area outlined in yellow is considered the affected area.
Courtesy of District Health Department No. 2

There’s an irony in Michigan. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes and have access to vast supplies of water. However, there are plenty of examples of water issues across the state. From the Flint water crisis, to the city of Ann Arbor's problem with 1,4 dioxane in the ground water. There's also dioxin in Midland and the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River

Recently, we added the contamination near Oscoda to that list of water problems in Michigan. The source looks to be the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, which closed in 1993.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee wants the Air Force to do more to help Oscoda residents whose groundwater is contaminated by perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. The Wurtsmith Air Force Base used firefighting foams containing PFCs on its property in Oscoda for decades. The base is now closed.

Kildee sent a letter to the Air Force this week, outlining a long list of concerns.

Oscoda residents talk with government officials about the PFC plumes contaminating their wells.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Residents of a northern Michigan town are getting briefed today on a threat to their drinking water.

For decades, fire crews trained at Wurtsmith Air Force Base not far from Lake Huron. But while the base closed more than 20 years ago, the chemicals used to extinguish the flames continue to seep into nearby wells and streams.

The plumes of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been migrating from the former air force base into surrounding neighborhoods and the Au Sable River. PFCs have also been detected in fish in Lake Huron.