Demand investigative hearings, legislative action on PFAS-contaminated drinking water

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D–Flint) and Reps. Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids), Kevin Hertel (D–St. Clair Shores), Jon Hoadley (D–Kalamazoo), Yousef Rabhi (D–Ann Arbor) and Henry Yanez (D–Sterling Heights) are renewing their call for legislative hearings and the passage of a Democratic bill to create the strongest PFAS drinking water limits in the nation.

This comes on the heels of news this morning by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that revealed that toxic chemicals known as PFAS may have contaminated more than 11,300 locations in Michigan. Two of these locations, Parchment and Cooper Township in Kalamazoo County, required a state of emergency to be declared on Sunday after high levels of PFAS were detected in their drinking water.

“We have to get to the bottom of this — no more excuses and no more lies,” Sen. Ananich said. “We need to be able to trust that the water coming from our taps is safe to drink, and that the words coming from this administration’s mouth are accurate and honest.”

Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers from Gov. Rick Snyder about his administration’s role in ignoring a whistleblower report that outlined the current PFAS epidemic nearly six years ago.

“I’m tired of Republicans claiming they didn’t know about PFAS when, in reality, they were alerted to the severity of these toxic chemicals by scientists nearly six years ago,” Rep. Brinks said. “They had a chance to prevent an entire generation of children from being poisoned. Instead, Gov. Snyder’s administration chose to sweep this under the rug — just like we saw with the discovery of PFAS in Kent County and the water crisis in Flint.”

In December 2017, Rep. Brinks introduced legislation to strengthen Michigan’s drinking water regulations for the dangerous chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Rep. Jon Hoadley, who represents areas in Kalamazoo County near the declared state of emergency, responded with:

“First, I’m so thankful to everyone coming together on the ground to deal with the situation at hand. Our first responders and community at large are showing how to come together. Second, it is important we ask how we came to this situation. The contamination we are facing was not just by accident, but inaction. This Republican administration and Legislature have let companies have their way by weakening regulations and refusing to put the health of Michiganders first. Kalamazoo County families are just the latest, and likely not the last, to have to switch to bottled water. We are overdue for action on the bills we have introduced to start taking on PFAS and oversight of companies that pollute our water and natural resources.”

Reps. Yanez and Hertel represent the two known PFAS-contaminated areas in Macomb County, including the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair, which are being polluted by PFAS from the Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

“Clean water is a right. In the Great Lakes State, residents should be able to trust that the water flowing from their taps is safe for them and their families,” Rep. Yanez said. “We have an obligation to do whatever is necessary to defend our waters, protect the health of our communities and hold polluters accountable for their actions.”

“Our families and communities depend on the state to protect them and the environment, but Republican leaders have again failed to ensure the water coming from their taps is clean and drinkable,” said Rep. Hertel. “State officials knew six years ago this could be a problem and yet they ignored the warnings. Testing and distributing bottled water is necessary, but we need to do more to ensure that this never happens again — and that means stronger laws and holding industries accountable.”

Rep. Yousef Rabhi, who represents residents in Washtenaw County that includes known PFAS contamination in Ann Arbor’s municipal water supply, responded with:

“It is unacceptable that yet again Michiganders have been exposed to unsafe drinking water due to MDEQ’s failure to act on warnings it received at least six years ago. We must hold MDEQ and the Republican administration accountable for this fundamental breakdown in fulfilling their basic responsibilities to protect the people of our state.”

Michigan Senate and House Democrats are hopeful that their calls to action will be met despite House Republican leadership’s decision to cancel session in September, considering the need for an investigation and action on legislative solutions to address the growing, widespread PFAS crisis in the state.

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