Keith Matheny Detroit Free Press
Published 8:47 p.m. UTC Aug 31, 2018
A potentially health-harming, “forever chemical” causing major pollution worries throughout Michigan has state officials now urging no fishing on the Huron River through four counties to Lake Erie.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Friday extended a ‘Do Not Eat’ fish advisory for the Huron River from North Wixom Road in Oakland County all the way to the mouth of the river at Lake Erie in Wayne County.
The action comes after further findings of surface water and fish contaminated with the compound perflurooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, one of a class of compounds called per- and polyfluroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
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Once commonly used in firefighting foam, nonstick surfaces, stain guards and other commercial and industrial applications, PFAS are an emerging contaminant of concern, as they persists for long periods in the environment and can be harmful to human health. Studies have shown perfluorinated compounds may affect the growth, learning and behavior of infants and children; lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; interfere with the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system, and increase cancer risks. Laboratory animals exposed to high doses of one or more of the compounds have shown changes in liver, thyroid and pancreatic function.
The state in early August issued a do-not-eat-fish advisory for Kent Lake and portions of the Huron River in the Milford area in Oakland County. On Aug. 24, the advisory was extended to include further areas.
Affected areas where eating live-caught fish is discouraged now include:
• Norton Creek (Oakland County)
Michigan officials are now taking a concerted look around Michigan for PFAS contamination, years after the discovery of the compounds persisting in the groundwater in and around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, and then at other military facilities in the state, as well as in portions of Kent County affected by the long-running operations of the Wolverine Worldwide shoe and leather company. The state estimates more than 11,000 locations statewide may be contaminated with the compounds: current and former fire stations, industrial sites, airports, landfills and more.
The extended do-not-eat-fish advisory was prompted by PFOS discoveries in fish tissue by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Base Line Lake and Argo Fish Pond, downstream from Kent Lake.
“Additionally, high PFOS surface water levels were found upstream of Kent Lake,” state health officials said in a release Friday. The levels were not immediately disclosed.
The State of Michigan and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently recognize a health advisory limit for PFOS in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion. But a report by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released in June recommends dropping the minimum exposure level at which no harm to people would be expected to 7 parts per trillion.
That report, currently open for public review and comment, was released after being kept under wraps for months by the EPA and White House, with a White House official reportedly stating in an email that its findings could cause “a public relations nightmare” for the Trump administration.
Contact Keith Matheny: (313) 222-5021 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny.
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