Watershed Health Updates
This page is dedicated to updating you about different issues within the watershed. Different links and contacts on the page will point you to more information about each topic.
What is/are PFAS?
PFAS is actually a group of chemicals. There are as many as 3,000 types of PFAS. PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. PFOA (perflourooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) are two common types of PFAS that the DEQ and municipalities test for. Most types of PFAS are resistant to heat, oil, and water. Because they're a resistant chemical, they can stick around in the environment for long periods of time.
Where does PFAS come from?
PFAS is a manufactured chemical and is used in many ways. It's used in a variety of every-day objects: nonstick cookware, paper food wrappers, carpeting, cleaning supplies, and waterproof materials. On the industrial side it is used in metal plating, paper manufacturing, fabric and leather treating, and fire-fighting foams.
How does PFAS get in water?
High amounts of PFAS are found in fire-fighting foams, used mostly on air force and military bases for practice operations. Back in the 1950s and 60s, it was considered a scientific breakthrough. It wasn't until the 1970s and 80s when PFAS began being studied closer for health-related problems. Then in the early 2000s PFAS was found to be contaminating drinking water.
PFAS gets into our rivers, streams, groundwater, and lakes through contaminated runoff or contaminated infiltration. When certain fire-fighting foams are used, they often flow into water sources. In manufacturing that uses PFAS for their products, wastewater coming from the plant may have high levels of PFAS that had gone undetected until recently.
What are the risks of PFAS?
PFAS, when ingested, has been linked to hormone irregularities, increased cholesterol, thyroid disease, decreased fertility in women, developmental issues in infants and older children, and increased risks of kidney and testicular cancers.
Using water with PFAS to bathe or launder clothes hasn't been found to pose any health risks.
How do I know if my water has PFAS?
You can click here to find your county and drinking water supply tested by the DEQ in 2018. Please note that the EPA's lifetime health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water is 70ppt (parts per trillion). More research is being done and is needed to determine if this level is acceptable and accurate in that it doesn't pose a threat to people's health. Michigan's Water Quality Standard levels for PFOS in streams not used for drinking water is 12ppt while the level for streams that are used for drinking water is 11ppt.
To put these numbers in perspective, one ppt is the equivalent of a grain of sugar in one Olympic size swimming pool.
You can call the State of Michigan Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 for any questions about PFAS.
Where are PFAS risks in the River Raisin Watershed?
Two sites on the Saline River in Washtenaw County have elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA in groundwater. One site is the former Universal Die Cast Company which is near some residential wells. The water within the wells has shown non-detect for PFOS and PFOA and will continue to be monitored. Visit this website which is dedicated to updates at this specific site.
The other location is at the Ford Motor Company Plant in Saline. All residents near the plant are connected to municipal water supply (municipal water monitoring results here) and have no elevated levels of PFAS. Visit this website which is dedicated to updates at the Ford Motor Company Plant in Saline.
What do I do if my water has PFAS?
If your water has over 70ppt of PFOS and PFOA, or if you don't feel comfortable with the set levels, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends you do not use your well water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula or food, washing fruits or vegetables, or brushing your teeth, unless your water is filtered using a system certified to reduce PFOA and PFAS. You may consider buying and using bottled water.
Can I eat fish from the River Raisin?
There have been no levels of PFAS found in fish tested in the River Raisin. Click here for more information about eating fish from different areas in the state of Michigan. While there haven't been PFAS risks in fish in the River Raisin, there are risks from PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl) downstream of the dam in Dundee. Click here for the 2018 Eat Safe Fish Guide of Michigan. The Guide is up-to-date except there is no information of PFAS in it.
What is being done to get rid of PFAS?
MDEQ launched MPART (Michigan PFAS Action Response Team) in 2017 to locate and eliminate PFAS threats, protect drinking water supplies, and inform the public about PFAS. MPART is made of many different agencies working together toward these goals.
MDEQ initiated processes at Wastewater Treatment Plants to reduce and eliminate PFAS entering into municipal treatment plants from industrial sources. Routine sampling is required at these treatment plants to ensure PFAS isn't entering streams and rivers.
MDEQ is continuing to test drinking water supplies and certain public water suppliers and schools that have their own wells. Click here for continuous updated testing information across Michigan.
MDEQ has compiled information on health concerns people may have regarding PFAS. Click here to learn more.
NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) has certified certain water filtration systems that filter out PFOS and PFOA. Click here to read more about these filters and who is certifying them. Other types of non-certified filters can be found on the same page. No matter what type of filter you use, you must keep up with regular maintenance to keep the filters doing what they're supposed to do.