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In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances.PFAS is a family of chemicals that can be found in all sorts of products. But what are the lingering effects of PFAS on our health and the environment?

New drinking water standards for PFAS, but more work to be done

Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s new PFAS drinking water standards went into effect this week. The restrictions include seven more common chemicals from the PFAS family. Michigan's regulations are among the strictest in the U.S.

Liesl Clark is the Director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She says the state continues to search for the sources of the toxic chemicals in the state. Recently 38 new contaminated sites were identified.

“They are additional sites and they are going to go through the investigation process to make sure that, again, we see if there are possibilities to go upstream, remove PFAS from the entire cycle and what other sorts of cleanup actions we might be able to take,” Clark says.

So far 137 sites have been identified. Most of them are landfills, old paper mills, metal plating factories, and other manufacturing sources. Clark says the reason there are so many identified sites is because Michigan is actively looking for the sources of PFAS contamination while some other states are not.

One known source was a firefighting foam used at airports and military bases known as AFFF.

“Another Michigan effort has been to collect the AFFF that's across the state. We've collected 38,000 gallons of AFFF and gotten that off the shelves and out of the firehouses,” says Clark.

After sources are identified and additional PFAS pollution stopped, the larger task will be how to remediate the persistent chemicals that have gotten into Michigan’s rivers and lakes.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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