91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Scientist says he was "on the edge of the abyss" when he realized the risks of PFAS in Michigan

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Robert Delaney wrote a report warning about PFAS contamination in 2012. He says no one at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality responded until last year.

A scientist at the state Department of Environmental Quality says he felt like he was “at the edge of the abyss” when he first realized the possible effects of widespread PFAS contamination in Michigan.

Robert Delaney made the comments at a public hearing in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, hosted by Senator Gary Peters.

Delaney wrote a report on the potential harm from PFAS chemicals in 2012.

He says he submitted the report to Dan Wyant, who was then the director of the DEQ. Delaney says Wyant never responded.

“Director Wyant always said that he really didn’t know much about the environmental business. He knew how to work in government,” Delaney said at the hearing. "Our agency was really struggling for money and acceptance in various corners. So he was brought in to help us with those things. But he really didn’t understand environmental science or the issues very well."

Delaney says he didn’t get any feedback on the 2012 report until last year.

Now, he says Michigan is one of the few states “shining a light” on the harms of PFAS chemicals. But he says he worries the state still doesn’t know enough about where the chemicals are, and how harmful they may be.

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
A hearing in Grand Rapids about PFAS, hosted by Senator Gary Peters.

Others at Tuesday’s hearing echoed that uncertainty.

“It feels as though… we’re failing to meet the needs of the community, as regards to this issue,” said Adam London, of the Kent County Health Department. “Because we know there is a problem, but it’s very unclear as to what the next steps are.”

London says the KCHD is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to launch a study of thousands of northern Kent County residents who might have been exposed to PFAS chemicals. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
Related Content