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Bills would require Defense Dept. to study health effects of PFC exposure

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The State Department of Environmental Quality is in the process of testing residential wells in Oscoda, Grayling and Alpena where PFC contamination is suspected.

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.

The use of a firefighting foam at military bases caused the PFC contamination. The Michigan Department of Environmental quality (MDEQ) is currently testing residential wells near Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda, and near Camp Grayling and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

“There’s testing that will continue at Wurtsmith, and then at Grayling ... literally residents there are receiving in the mail each day their testing results,” said MDEQ spokesperson Melanie Brown.

There is a town hall at the Camp Grayling Armory for area residents with questions or concerns about their test results Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Brown says the MDEQ will continue testing at Wurtsmith with the hope of determining the boundaries of the plume of PFCs that is traveling through the groundwater. She says the department will do another round of residential well sampling sometime in August.

In addition to their use in firefighting foam, many consumer goods contain PFCs. According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, humans have been widely exposed to two types of PFC chemicals found in the military foam, PFOA and PFOS.

The EPA says the risks of PFOA/PFOS exposure include developmental problems for fetuses and infants, as well as an increased risk of certain types of cancer and liver damage.

Brown says residents with wells near areas suspected to be contaminated get their testing results directly from the contractor conducting the tests. She says the state will have a clearer picture of the extent of the contamination as more results come in.

The Senate version of the NDAA includes a $7 million appropriation to conduct the study within five to seven years after passage of the bill.

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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