Michigan’s Attorney General urges Congress to take action on PFAS

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MICHIGAN — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 20 Attorneys General in sending a letter urging Congress to pass legislation that aids states in addressing the public health threat presented by the toxic “forever” chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

“Michigan has already taken a proactive approach to regulate PFAS contaminants in groundwater by implementing regulations on this contaminant without waiting for the federal government,” Nessel said. “But like all states, our efforts to address PFAS contamination will be aided by uniform, protective national standards and we’re counting on Congress’ help to make that happen.”

The letter sent to Congressional leadership today calls for action to help states address and prevent the growing dangers of these super-resilient, man-made chemicals that are contaminating drinking water and groundwater nationwide. The letter also urges Congress to provide financial assistance to state and local governments to offset the high cost of cleaning up drinking water supplies.

The group’s letter comes just one month after Attorney General Nessel and Michigan’s Departments of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and Health and Human Services, each filed comments urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its interim PFAS standards to better protect the health, safety and welfare of the state’s residents, all Americans and the environment.

Michigan is one of only a few states that has issued enforceable standards for the two chemicals addressed in the EPA’s recommendations: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perflurorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The state has water quality standards, cleanup criteria for groundwater used as drinking water, and cleanup criteria for the groundwater-surface water interface to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents and the environment.

“This is a nationwide challenge and it’s important that we all work swiftly and in a bipartisan fashion so all who live here can have access to clean drinking water and a safe environment,” Nessel added.

Across the country, PFAS contamination is most often found at military bases, firefighting training centers, civilian airports, and industrial facilities. Like other states, Michigan has spent tens of millions of dollars over the last two years to investigate and remediate PFAS contamination and identify responsible parties.

While the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have advanced legislation that addresses issues related to PFAS contamination, the Attorneys General urge Congress to deal with “the most urgent legislative needs” of states as they work on a final agreement on this legislation. These urgent needs, based on states’ firsthand experience include:

-Designating certain PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), otherwise known as “Superfund.” This designation is key to cleaning up some of the most dangerous PFAS-contaminated sites in the country, including U.S. Department of Defense sites and so-called “orphan” sites, where the responsible parties have not been identified or located, or have simply failed to act.

-Adding the entire class of PFAS chemicals to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which requires certain industrial facilities to report on the amount of specific toxic chemicals released into the environment annually. This would provide critical information about new potential sources of these chemicals, as well as the areas of potential contamination.

-Providing funding for remediation of PFAS-contaminated drinking water supplies – particularly those in disadvantaged communities where residents’ water bills rise as a result of their municipality struggling to afford the high costs associated with cleaning up PFAS.

-Prohibiting the use and storage of firefighting foam containing PFAS at military bases and other federal facilities as soon as possible and in the meantime, providing immediate protective measures, especially when firefighting foam is used.

-Providing medical screening of PFAS exposure for appropriate personnel and members of the public, including but not limited to firefighters.

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