PFAS limits for drinking water have been established

Wednesday was historic in the fight for clean water. Michigan adopted enforceable limits on harmful chemical compounds in drinking water. The move, years in the making, will boost the physical and developmental health of those that have fought for years to make the limits a reality: the people.

A joint committee in the state’s legislature quietly allowed proposed limits on seven per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, in drinking water to lapse, setting the limits into law. Some limits are the lowest in the nation.

“These limits were long-needed and were long-supported by the vast majority of Michigan residents,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for Michigan Environmental Council, who testified before the joint committee Wednesday. “These limits will have long-lasting benefits, too. They will prompt more site testing, place pressure on companies to stop using PFAS and galvanize more statewide PFAS protections.”

The limits were fully vetted by the health- and science-based Michigan PFAS Action Response Team and the industry-dominated Environmental Rules Review Committee. Environmental and health organizations such as MEC and PFAS Alliance and some 3,000 residents also gave their support during the process. 

PFAS Alliance Managing director A.J. Birkbeck was visiting PFAS-contaminated sites in northern Michigan when the enforceable limits went into effect. Ten years ago, he was among the Rockford-area citizens who helped expose Wolverine Worldwide’s PFAS pollution.

“Enforceable drinking limits were made possible by the hard work of citizen scientists, advocates and affected residents,” Birkbeck said. “Now, they and millions of Michianders will be better protected from sicknesses caused by PFAS.”

Research indicates that the chemical class can cause developmental, reproductive and immunological damage and that some compounds could be cancerous. 

More than 3,000 PFAS are found in products that are waterproof, stain resistant and non-stick, from shoes to cosmetics to takeout containers. Some products, such as firefighting foam, have worked their way into groundwater and drinking water systems across the state.

Jameson and Birkbeck hope the limits will set a wave of other PFAS policy decisions in motion that would protect even more people and place even more pressure on companies that use the chemicals. 

“There are thousands more PFAS compounds than the seven major compounds we now have enforceable limits on,” Jameson said. “The state or federal government should next set strict, enforceable limits for the entire PFAS class, not just a few.”

The decision comes a month after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed two Republican bills into law that improve the accountability of fire departments and their disposal of firefighting foam containing PFAS. A bipartisan PFAS package sits in the house, one that would initiate an action response team, surveys and analysis from public water suppliers.


Are you an Oscoda area resident? You can press the state to clean up your community of PFAS.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is hosting two community input sessions Thursday, July 30 regarding PFAS found in Oscoda-area drinking water and wildlife. 

The first session is from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Participants can register for the online video meeting or listen in by calling (866) 952-8437. Callers must enter access code 618‑420‑786 followed by the # sign, and then the audio pin 67204 followed by the # sign.

The second session is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Participants can register for the online video meeting or listen in by calling (877) 309-2071. Callers must enter access code 481-411-343, and then the audio pin 35577 followed by the # sign.


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