Michigan Takes Steps to Eliminate PFOS, PFOA and PFAS

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is requiring wastewater treatment plants with industrial pretreatment programs to screen for and eliminate these compounds commonly used in the metal-finishing industry.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is requiring wastewater treatment plants with industrial pretreatment programs to eliminate several compounds used in the metal-finishing industry: perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The DEQ sent a letter to the plants in the state in late February asking them to “investigate probable sources, reduce/eliminate the sources found and take other actions to protect surface water quality as needed.” The agency specifically called out the metal-finishing industry as a source of some of the compounds, along with firefighting foams, and stain- and water-resistant treatments for clothing, furniture and carpeting.

Erin Burns, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Association for Surface Finishing, notified its members that they will soon be contacted by their local publicly owned treatment works to test how much of the compounds they are disposing.

“DEQ asked WWTFs (wastewater treatment facilities) to conduct initial screening for potential sources of PFAS, develop a monitoring plan, and perform source testing to identify levels in wastewater above the surface water quality standard of 12 parts per trillion for PFOS,” she says.

Representatives from the NASF and its Michigan chapter met with the DEQ and U.S. EPA in January to discuss issues related to the PFAS initiative, which has a June 29 deadline for data collection, and an October 26 deadline for a plan to reduce or eliminate the PFOS and PFOA.

“We are concerned about several critical issues, including the lack of any approved testing methodology for PFAS in wastewater,” Burns says. “These concerns are exacerbated by the aggressive deadlines imposed on WWTFs in the DEQ letter.”

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill in January which provides a $23.2 million allocation for testing, monitoring and technical assistance at more than a dozen sites across Michigan. This funding will also pay for improvements to the Michigan DEQ’s water testing laboratory, which is not currently equipped to test for PFAS.

“Water samples from homes are currently shipped out of state because none of the water testing facilities in Michigan have the capability to test for PFAS. Right now families have to wait about eight weeks for results,” says State Representative Daire Rendon of Lake City. “Upgrading the state’s DEQ laboratory will ensure a reliable, timely response for our residents.”

For information, visit minasf.org.