Federal PFAS hearing to focus on ‘widespread industrial contamination’
By Paula Gardner | MLive | July 22, 2019
Read full article by Paula Gardner (MLive)
“PFAS pollution across a 25-square mile swath of West Michigan traced to Wolverine World Wide’s manufacturing over decades raises questions of federal policy, state action and corporate responsibility…
Sandy Wynn-Stelt’s home is just yards from a former Wolverine dump that is poisoning her water. Her blood tested at 750 times the national average for PFOS, one type of the chemical linked to cancer, thyroid and kidney disease and several other adverse health effects. Her husband died of a condition that may be linked to it.
She wants the public protected. But she also wants chemical and manufacturing companies like Wolverine and its PFAS supplier, 3M, to get the toxins out of drinking water supplies and the environment.
‘The bottom line is these manufacturers made and used these chemicals,’ Wynn-Stelt said. ‘They really need to step up and clean it up…. They literally made billions in profits from this.’
Corporate pollution and responsibility for PFAS is the focus of a Congressional subcommittee hearing this week. It’s the latest move by federal legislators to raise awareness about the chemicals, which affect the drinking water of an estimated 110 million Americans.
‘The Devil We Know – PFAS Contamination and the Need for Corporate Accountability’ was called by the Subcommittee on the Environment under the Committee on Oversight and Reform. The hearing will begin at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, July 24, on Capitol Hill. Among committee members, the only Michigan official is Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit.
The panel will ‘examine the widespread industrial contamination of the air, drinking water, ground water and food supplies across the United States with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),’ according to a witness letter signed by U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, the subcommittee chairman.
Wynn-Stelt will testify, bringing Michigan’s voice to the House of Representatives hearing room…
Rouda’s letter said the hearing plans to examine the history of the science behind the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals – and also explore when chemical companies knew about those risks.
Two high-profile lawsuits uncovered internal company documents that show the two major producers of PFAS chemicals had done significant research into them, with warnings raised that were not disclosed to the public or to regulators.
The title of the hearing refers to a recent documentary film about how the PFAS pollution by DuPont in Parkersburg, West Virginia, was uncovered. The company knew for decades that PFOA was associated with health risks, but it continued to discharge it into the community’s drinking water supply and the air. Litigation resulted in early 2017 in a $671 million verdict against DuPont and Chemours…
Toxicologist Jamie DeWitt, a professor at East Carolina University, also will testify. She was on Michigan’s science advisory group, a body that this summer issued recommendations for the state to set maximum contaminant levels for six types of PFAS in drinking water.
DeWitt said she’ll be describing to Congress how scientists research the toxins and the steps behind launching an investigation into new compounds…
Michigan tested all of its public drinking water supplies and schools for PFAS, wrapping up in 2018. Those tests resulted in new million-dollar carbon filters in some communities, like Ann Arbor. The city of Parchment, near Kalamazoo, had its water system shut down due to high levels of PFAS. Other communities and school districts are responding to the PFAS levels, either assuring residents and students that their water is safe or taking other steps to address contamination…
While some of the contamination is due to fire-fighting foam used on military installations, much of it comes from industrial sources.
An MLive investigation in fall 2018 documented 18 cities in Michigan where active businesses were discharging PFOS into public wastewater plants, which in turn were discharging them at prohibited levels into the state’s waterways. Those examples represented 20,000 the allowed level of PFOS; that does not account for the active businesses and landfills discharging PFAS into systems that did not trigger a violation.
While PFOS has not been used in the US for several years, there are residual issues that keep it at high levels in several manufacturing sites in the state, according to state and business officials. Examples are in Michigan’s plating industry, where companies were told to use PFOS as a mist suppressant.
And beyond PFOS, the testing behind those numbers show that multiple other types of PFAS also are flowing from businesses at high levels. Among them are replacement chemicals for PFOS and PFOA that have little publicly known research about their health effects. They include the so-called ‘safe’ 6:2 FTS, which the state is now looking at, and GenX, which was recommended for Michigan’s maximum contaminant level list.
Emily Donovan also will testify. She’s a citizen activist in North Carolina, where the state is now scrutinizing the former DuPont plant owned by Chemours. GenX, a replacement compound for PFOA, contaminated the Cape Fear river, which supplied drinking water for three counties…
It’s time for officials to look at the role of businesses in pollution – and cleanup, Donovan said. The public and the companies will be better off if the contamination is stemmed at the source before it reaches the environment and the need for expensive solutions…”
This content provided by the PFAS Project.