EPA officials come to Kzoo for PFAS roundtable

Toxic Tap Water

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Environmental Protection Agency officials, legislators and residents gathered in Kalamazoo Friday to take part in a roundtable discussion about PFAS contamination.

High levels of the likely carcinogen have been found in drinking water around Michigan, including in Parchment and Belmont.

At Friday’s meeting, federal, state and local environmental health officials addressed concerns about the growing problem. 

Among those were the cost and accessibility of blood testing, a lack of communication from authorities, and the EPA’s advisory level for PFAS. It’s currently set at 70 parts per trillion, but many want that number lowered — and for the EPA to make that standard enforceable against PFAS polluters.

“It looks like it’s way too high,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, whose water at her Belmont home tested among the highest PFAS levels recorded. “What I’m hoping they do is really start taking this seriously as a health issue.”

“That work is underway in terms of exploring that,” EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water director Peter Grevatt said of the national standard after the meeting. “And that will be addressed in our national management plan that we hope to release by the end of the year.” 

Another issue raised is how long it’s taking for answers. Many residents say they’ve had to wait for information and for a permanent solution for far too long.

“The wheels need to move,” Rep. Fred Upton told 24 Hour News 8. “And we need to know what the safe level is.”

“PFAS is a complicated issue in that there are many compounds in commerce — many of them used in common products. It’s really the presence of compounds in the environment that were most concerned about,” Grevatt said. 

At the meeting, the EPA took questions on note cards from the audience but did not hold an official public comment period, which has drawn criticism from residents. 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters criticized that in a statement, saying in part “The scripted, invite-only format for Friday’s PFAS meeting lacks any meaningful opportunity for Michigan residents who have been exposed to toxic chemicals to make their voices heard.”

Grevatt didn’t directly answer the question when asked about the lack of a public comment, only saying, “We’ve had a docket open — a public docket for several months and we have received almost 120,000 comments from the public through that docket.”

The EPA said it will finish its national management plan to address the growing problem by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, state environmental officials has been testing all community water supplies in Michigan for PFAS — they hope to be done by the end of the year as well.

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