PFAS and the River-An Overview
As many of you know, the Au Sable River system has been contaminated by a suite of chemicals known as PFAS. In 2010, the State of Michigan discovered that the the lower Au Sable was contaminated near Oscoda. In 2017, it was discovered that groundwater contaminated by PFAS was migrating from the facilities at Camp Grayling. Municipal water supply testing and analysis by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is ongoing as are efforts at remediation. The ARPOA will be including periodic updates pertaining to the PFAS issue on the website and in the newsletter. Below you will find a brief on PFAS in case you were unfamiliar with these chemicals (See: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas).
What are PFAS? PFAS (perfluoroalkyl) are a large group (approximately 5000+) of fluorinated organic manufactured chemicals used globally in a number of industries since the 1940’s. These chemicals have strong carbon-fluorine bonds meaning they are very stable, very slow to biodegrade and hence persistent in the environment. They are mobile in the groundwater, tending to move to the surface (surfactants), and are hydrophobic (repels water) and oleophobic (repels oil, grease and fat).
PFAS have been used and/or found in:
- the food industry
- commercially produced household products such as nonstick products (Teflon), polishes, cleaning materials and fire-fighting foams
- the workplace (where PFAS are used in chrome plating, electronic manufacturing,and oil recovery to names a few of the uses)
- drinking water (from local sources such as landfill, wastewater treatment facilities, firefighting training sites and military installations)
- living organisms
Notwithstanding the 2006 volunteer phasing out of these chemicals by eight major companies involved in global production, most of us have been and will continue to be exposed to PFAS. The bad news is that PFAS are still produced internationally and find their way to us through imported consumer goods
Because they bioaccumulate or persist in the environment, in fish, in wildlife and in the human body, PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ and have been found in the blood of virtually all people tested. Exposure to PFAS has been found to be associated with health problems such as low infant birth weights, depressed immune system, cancer and thyroid issues.
Check out EGLE’s video on PFAS: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MIDEQ/bulletins/2f865b4
RESTORATION ADVISORY BOARD
The Michigan Restoration Advisory Board Community Representatives released their first newsletter, an excellent overview of the PFAS situation in Michigan. Click RAB Newsletter #1 to learn more!
Read about Michigan’s DRINKING WATER PROTECTIONS, order of the Governor.
MSU’s Institute of Water Research chosen for economic study of groundwater contamination management
Michigan State University’s Institute for Water Research has been chosen to conduct an economic study of the Long Run Risk management strategies for groundwater contamination under a $349,808 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
The research team will use case studies to better understand the long-term implications, risks and costs of using institutional controls and other restrictions — such as limiting the use of an aquifer — when managing risks associated with groundwater that is unusable. The team will also develop a framework to guide future decisions.
Institutional controls and other restrictive covenants are used by state and local governments to manage the risk of exposure to contaminated groundwater. The controls and covenants allow for limits to be placed on using an aquifer instead of removing contamination at more than 2,000 sites across the state.
Michigan’s environmental laws do not provide guidelines or limits on the appropriate use of institutional controls and restrictive covenants, nor do the laws account for potential complications. The Long Run Risk research project is intended to help state and local decision-makers to better understand the effects of current management strategies for contaminated groundwater and inform and improve decision-making about future uses of institutional controls.
Funding for this study is provided by EGLE’s Office of the Great Lakes through the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund (MGLPF).
For more information, contact Emily Finnell, Office of the Great Lakes, at [email protected] or 517-599-1330. Article author: Nick Assendelft, Public Information Officer, [email protected], 517-388-3135
Consumption Guidelines for Fish
Drinking Water Contaminant Levels
MPART PFAS Information System App
This app features several datasets as part of Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART)’s efforts:
- PFAS Sites (official list of PFAS sites in Michigan)
- PFAS Surface Water Sampling (PFAS concentrations in surface water samples collected by EGLE)
- PFAS Municipal Drinking Water Sampling Hexbins & Results Table
PFAS and Foam
- Natural foam is typically off-white or brown in color, accumulates where there is interrupted river flow such as eddies, debris dams or bays, and has an earthy/fishy smell.
- PFAS foam is usually lightweight, bright white, sticky, and may accumulate on beaches.
- Why is knowing about foam important?
- Foam often has a higher concentration of PFAS than the waters it’s found in.
- Foam can contain harmful bacteria.
- Swallowing foam inadvertently can be a health risk.
- MDHHS recommends avoidance of river or lake foam where there is evidence that these waters are PFAS contaminated. Keep pets away as well.
- Good news is that recreational activities in waters containing PFAS is not considered harmful as PFAS amounts are usually low.
- There is a health advisory for Lake Margrethe (06/05/2018) recommending people avoid foam on the lake and rinse off any after contact.
- Further recommendations will be forthcoming following additional research and evaluation.
- If you observe what you think is PFAS foam on the river, you can either:
- Fill out the foam sighting form: MiWaters Spill/Incident/Pollution form. You can include photos of the foam when you access this link.
- Call the 24-hour Pollution Emergency Alert (PEAS) hotline at 800-292-4706 to report the foam. Helpful information to be provide when completing the complaint form, or if you call the PEAS line, include:
- Your contact information (name, address, phone number).
- Location information – Where exactly the foam is located:
- e.g. Lake Margrethe at Little Bear Point
- Nearest address and or latitude/longitude coordinates if known
- Color of foam (bright white/off white/other).
- Consistency of foam. Is it light and fluffy like shaving cream or watered down with organic matter?
- How much foam is present, length by width by thickness? (We understand this is an estimate/best guess.)
- If it is a floating mass of foam, which direction is it moving?
- What time did you first observe the foam, and is it still present?
- Have you seen the foam in previous years?
- Optional but helpful: wind speed, wind direction, air temperature.
- Optional but helpful: did/can you take a picture of the foam?
- PFAS foam has been found at sites near Wurtsmith Air Force Base and on Lake Margrethe near Camp Grayling. Please remember that at present there are no standards for PFAS in foam, so no regulatory actions can be taken due to sampling results.