By state Rep. Sue Allor
Michigan, like much of the nation, is dealing with the consequences of chemical contaminants left behind by decades of industrial processes and decaying consumer products.
These chemicals have long, complex names such as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl – known as PFAS for short. They have been used in everything from carpeting to food wrappers to firefighting foam to metal plating. Now they are showing up in our groundwater, a threat to public health that Michigan must address quickly and aggressively.
As a former nurse, public health has always been one of my top concerns. That is still the case now that I am your representative in the Michigan House. That’s why earlier this year, I sponsored a resolution calling on Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) to use state funds as effectively and efficiently as possible. This resolution urges the creation of a scientific advisory committee and calls for conducting a scientific risk assessment, which then would be used to prioritize response efforts and create a logical plan moving forward.
I also called on the federal government to do more to help us fight PFAS contamination, including the release of a study which was being held back from the public until just recently. We are still reviewing the study, but believe that it could help us learn more about how these chemicals affect human health. We also took additional action – including legislation and securing funds – to address this very serious issue.
Late last year, I joined with my colleagues in securing $23 million to respond to PFAS contamination in our state. Money is being used to test, monitor and provide technical assistance at PFAS-contaminated sites statewide – including the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena.
In the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year budget, which was signed into law last month, I successfully secured additional funding for Northeast Michigan to combat PFAS contamination.
It helps to have great local partners when pursuing this kind of support, and we have one in Oscoda Township Supervisor Aaron Weed. He is a key part of a team driven to finding solutions to this problem and make sure residents have clean water. Aaron approached me with a plan to help connect homes in affected areas to municipal water so residents don’t have to use at-risk water wells. With this information, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work bringing home the $325,000 needed to complete the project in Oscoda Township.
It is a great example of bringing our hard-earned tax dollars back home to Northern Michigan – where they can benefit our communities and preserve our way of life.
I also spearheaded the successful effort to allocate $115,000 to study the effects of PFAS contamination on wildlife. This is incredibly important here in Northern Michigan where deer and fish will make their way to our dining room tables – we’ve got to do everything possible to ensure they’re safe for our families’ consumption.
Also, more than $4 million will be added to PFAS contamination response programs statewide in the new budget. This includes more money for grants to local health departments and improved laboratory capacity to more quickly identify and respond to contamination, making us a leader in our nation when it comes to responding to this contaminant.
All of these initiatives will help Michigan respond to PFAS concerns more quickly and effectively – protecting public health. I encourage you to learn more about PFAS by visiting this website: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/
(Rep. Sue Allor represents Alpena, Presque Isle, Alcona and Iosco counties, as well as part of Cheboygan County, in the Michigan House.)