Democratic commission candidates call for investigation into PFAS contamination of lakes

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A letter signed by the six Democratic candidates for Livingston County Commission called on the Board of Commissioners to move swiftly to get on top of the PFAS contamination crisis. The candidates called on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners to begin an investigation into the extent of contamination in the county after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality expanded the “do not eat” advisory to Ore Lake. Whitewood lakes, Loon Lake, Gallagher Lake, Strawberry and Zukey lakes, and the Huron River are also in the “do not eat” advisory.

Kristina Drake, the Democratic Candidate for District 8, recently purchased a house on Ore Lake and found out about the contamination after closing on the home.

“It’s made the news extremely personal,” Drake said. “I love the chain of lakes and the river, but how does one feel about moving here with that contamination in mind?”

The MDEQ also disclosed that 1.5 million Michigan residents have unknowingly been drinking municipal water containing PFAS (or per- and polyfluroalkyl compounds). Early reports about PFAS contamination had focused on areas around military bases in Michigan, but in June, the MDEQ made a presentation in Lansing that included maps with more than 11,300 potentially contaminated sites. These included fire stations, municipal airports, wastewater treatment plants, and industrial sites. The maps show many potential sites in Livingston County.

The chemical compounds known as PFAS can damage liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function; affect the growth and learning of infants and children; make it harder for a woman to conceive; raise cholesterol levels; increase cancer risks, and affect the immune system. The chemical compounds can last for many years in the environment, so it is possible that abandoned industrial sites are still sources of contamination.

“This crisis has struck recently in the Kalamazoo area where my parents, sister, and many of my friends live, but it is by no means confined to that part of the state,” said Alex Hansen, the Democratic Candidate for District 5. “Strong and swift action still needs to take place to find out the full extent of the contamination in Livingston County and to restore the polluted water assets.”

In a letter to the County Commission, the candidates called on it to:

• Begin an immediate investigation into the extent of PFAS 
contamination in Livingston County and to move swiftly to get on top of any local PFAS contamination.

• Press the MDEQ to release data on the sites they have tested so far as well as demand a schedule for when the remaining sites will be tested in Livingston County.

• Appropriate funds for the testing of private wells near sites with dangerous levels of PFAS.

• Weigh in on U.S. Senate Bill 3382’s call for appropriation to fund PFAS testing. If the bill passes, it would be advantageous for Livingston County to get in line early for the federal funding.

• Require the Livingston County Public Health Department (1) to survey businesses, fire departments, and airports to determine which entities have used PFAS-containing chemicals and how much of them remain in their procession, (2) to examine the MDEQ data to identify and notify sites of possible contamination in the County, and (3) request a proactive plan of action from the MDEQ outlining suggested countermeasures/steps/cost to counter the PFAS contamination.

• Request the County’s lawmakers in Lansing to support an investigation into why the MDEQ sat on its report regarding PFAS contamination in Michigan for six years, preventing communities from taking steps to protect themselves.

The Democratic candidates are Jennifer Garcia of Hartland Township, District 2; Steven Savela of Hartland Township, District 3; Maureen Martin of Unadilla Township, District 4; Alex Hansen of Howell Township, District 5; Kasey Helton of Marion Township, District 6, and Kristina Drake of Hamburg Township, District 8.
You can read the letter they sent to the Livingston County Board of Commissioners by clicking here.

Read our previous posts on the contamination:

State issues emergency ‘DO NOT EAT’ Huron River fish advisory

Commission candidate calls for swift action on PFAS

PFAS testing for residential wells — while possible — isn’t easy or cheap

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.