MDEQ taps top MSU hydrogeologist for state PFAS response

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced that Professor David Hyndman, chair of Michigan State University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has agreed to assist MDEQ scientists in the state-wide effort to identify PFAS contamination in Michigan and target response activities to prevent unacceptable exposures to Michigan residents.

“Our top priority is to protect the people of Michigan from PFAS contamination in groundwater,” said MDEQ Director Heidi Grether. “Michigan’s glacial geology creates unique challenges in understanding how this contamination can impact drinking water sources and Dr. Hyndman’s expertise will be invaluable in our drive to lead the most through and effective response to PFAS in the country.”

Hyndman is an expert in groundwater hydrogeology and has focused his research on how changes in land use can impact water quality. His work has led to the development of several methods to track contamination in groundwater.

Hyndman’s work will support the state’s $23 million effort to locate PFAS contamination, identify sources and oversee remediation activities aimed at protecting the state’s water resources and mitigating risks to the public.

PFAS compounds, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), are a group of emerging and potentially harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and cleaning products. These compounds are also used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers.

In January 2018, MDEQ set a new legally enforceable standard of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. Michigan is one of only a handful of states to establish enforceable limits for any PFAS compounds.

The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) – the first multi-agency strike force of its kind in the nation — is comprised of state and local agencies that have been investigating sites for potential contamination and taking actions to protect public health.

Members include key leaders of the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality; Health and Human Services; Military and Veterans Affairs; Natural Resources and Agriculture and Rural Development. MPART is also coordinating with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Guard Bureau, U.S. Department of Defense, and the appropriate local health departments and other government agencies.

In Michigan, PFAS contamination has been found in 28 locations in 15 different communities, including northern Kent County, where Wolverine World Wide operated a tannery, as well as several military facilities, like the former Wurtsmith Air Force base near Oscoda, around the state.

For more information, visit: Michigan.gov/PFASresponse.

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