EPA and Pentagon officials travel to Michigan for US Senate PFAS hearing

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Update: During the hearing, the misdeeds of the PFAS take center stage

EAST LANSING, MI — Federal defense, health and environmental officials are coming to Michigan to witness efforts to address toxic PFAS contamination.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-Mich., will hear testimony from the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Registry of Diseases (ATSDR) on Monday, August 1. hearing on the ground at Michigan State University.

The hearing will also feature Michigan state regulators, academic experts, tribal officials and community advocates from Oscoda, where contamination around the former Air Force base of Wurtsmith continues to cause disputes and cleanup concerns.

Peters is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The hearing is titled “Improving Interagency and Intergovernmental Coordination on PFAS for Michigan Communities.” It will take place in room 1404 of the university’s Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building, 766 Service Road in East Lansing.

According to a statement from Peters’ office, the hearing will “examine federal efforts and coordination with state and local governments to clean up and prevent contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as well as the impact of the exposure to these toxic chemicals. has had on military, first responders, families and other Michiganders.

“PFAS exposure continues to negatively impact the health and safety of people throughout Michigan. This is why I have long urged the federal government to step up its efforts to protect our communities from these harmful chemicals,” Peters said. “I’m bringing federal officials to Michigan so we can hear from them first-hand about how the federal government can more effectively deal with this crisis in the future.”

Two panels of witnesses will testify, including:

Patrick Breysse, PH.D., Director National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Centers for Control and Prevention of Disasters. US Department of Health and Human Services.

Bruno PigottDeputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, US Environmental Protection Agency.

Richard KiddDeputy Assistant Secretary of Environment and Energy Resilience, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Support), U.S. Department of Defense.

Nancy BalkusPE Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Environment, Security, and Infrastructure), Department of the Air Force.

John GillespieSenior Subject Matter Expert, Environmental Restoration, Air Force Civil Engineering Center.

Abigail Hendershottexecutive director, Michigan PFAS Action Response Team.

Breanna Knudsen, specialist in the tribal environmental intervention program. Planning Department, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

Cheryl MurphyPH.D., Director, Center for PFAS Research, Michigan State University.

Lieutenant Colonel Craig MinorUSAF (Retired), Former Resident, Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Cathy WusterbarthFounder, Need Our Water (NOW) and Oscoda Citizens for Clean Water and Community Leader, Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.

The hearing comes about 8 months after Peters held another committee hearing focused on PFAS in Washington, D.C., which included testimony from Pentagon officials and Michigan advocates who criticized the overly bureaucratic approach of the PFAS. army to fight against contamination in the bases of the country.

Richard Kidd, a senior defense official who is on the upcoming panel, said the rigid federal reparations process underway at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base can sometimes drag on “indefinitely” when of the December 9 hearing.

The long and protracted PFAS cleanup at Oscoda has long angered community activists, who accuse the Air Force of deliberately prolonging the process, imposing unfair costs on local governments and refusing to take responsibility for the widespread contamination found outside the perimeter of the old base.

Disputes over the pace and adequacy of the cleanup at Wurtsmith have brought Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer into conflict with the Department of Defense, which has failed to respond for more than a year to her formal invocation of the provisions of a defense bill intended to force the Air Force to comply with state PFAS cleanup standards at the former base.

Related: Lost in the mail? Pentagon response to Michigan governor goes AWOL

The communications blackout was resolved this year, but it follows years of rejection of state standards by the Air Force, which has long quibbled or outright refused at various times to comply with some strict Michigan laws. governing the cleaning of PFAS at Wurtsmith.

Although Wurtsmith is listed as a “proposed” Superfund site, the EPA has no real involvement in the cleanup of the base, and the Air Force essentially regulates its own actions under the supervision of the Department of Environment, Great Britain. Lakes and Energy of Michigan (EGLE), which often struggles with this task.

At the behest of Congress, the Air Force began conducting an interim cleanup at Wurtsmith a few years ago, but base cleanup meetings have been marred by disputes involving veterans who say the The military refuses to adequately study their exposure when the base was active.

Meanwhile, the EPA recently strengthened the underlying scientific case for regulating some of the chemicals in drinking water nationwide. In June, the agency released draft toxicity tests for PFOS and PFOA that dropped what is considered a safe long-term exposure level in alcohol consumption below this that laboratories are currently able to detect.

Earlier this month, Whitmer and New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham co-signed a July 19 letter to senior Pentagon officials, urging them to “incorporate new science from the EPA regarding PFAS toxicity outlined in new public health guidelines on PFAS when implementing screening”. cleaning levels and standards for contamination caused by DOD sites. “

Michigan frequently brings PFAS issues to the attention of other states and the federal government, as the state was one of the first to begin actively searching for them after widespread contamination was discovered in the north. in Kent County caused by the dumping of tannery waste by global footwear company Wolverine World Wide. .

To date, there are more than 224 sites in Michigan where PFAS contamination is known to exceed allowable levels in groundwater. The state is also pursuing lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers and companies that dumped the contaminants in Michigan.

The Senate hearing will be streamed live at this link.

Related stories:

Air Force rejects evidence of veterans’ exposure to PFAS

Pentagon PFAS cleanup is ‘bureaucracy gone mad’

“They brought the poison.” The Air Force will not own the PFAS problem

In Oscoda, a tourist town struggling with an “eternal” problem

Air Force says Superfund prohibits compliance with state law

Legislation would expand PFAS research

Safe Levels of PFAS Dip in Drinking Water

Elevated PFAS found in rainbow smelt across Michigan

Imported canned clams recalled due to high levels of PFAS

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