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Chemical Companies Protest Michigan’s PFAS-Limiting Proposal

Feb. 24, 2020, 10:38 PM

3M Co., the chemical industry and Michigan businesses are challenging the state’s proposed fluorinated chemicals limits, while some communities are asking for an outright ban.

The state Environmental Rules Review Committee will meet Feb. 27, when it will likely advance enforceable limits for seven per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water. Michigan regulators may adopt a final rule as early as April.

These chemicals, also known as PFAS, have been found at 74 sites in Michigan and have been linked to various diseases, including kidney and testicular cancers.

The costs of monitoring each water source, and the larger cost of implementing a carbon-filtration system for cleanup, would put Michigan businesses at a disadvantage to out-of-state competitors and cause drinking water costs to skyrocket for small communities, state industry groups said.

3M said the “compressed timeframe” for the state’s technical review led to a flawed proposal that leaned too heavily on other state’s assessments of the chemicals. 3M was one of the original companies to develop and produce PFAS, which dates back to the 1940s.

About 75% of public comments supported the proposed limits. Some residents of communities contaminated by PFAS urged Michigan regulators to completely disallow PFAS in drinking water.

But industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, and local governments said the cost of compliance is too high given little scientific research on PFAS, and Michigan should wait while the EPA moves to regulate some of the chemicals.

“Many of our members have interests in multiple states and it is important to have uniformity and consistency on standards, not just for business operations but for risk communication, as well,” the PFAS Regulatory Coalition, a group of industrial companies, municipalities and trade associations said in their comment opposing the rule.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said that the state will perform ongoing assessments of new research on the chemicals. The state is proposing limits for the PFAS chemicals known as GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PfHxA, PFNA, PFOS, and PFOA.

Industry Comments

A small fraction of comments came from industry groups, ranging from manufacturing to agriculture, and township governments opposing periodic water sampling, with costs ranging from $300 to $600 per sample, for more than 2,000 water supplies.

That includes about 1,300 “non-transient, non-community” water supplies, such as those maintained by manufacturers, hospitals, farms, campgrounds, and schools.

“Analysis of New Hampshire’s installation costs for PFAS treatment ranged between $2.90 per gallon and $8 per gallon treated per day, but this is not a figure that can be divided down to zero for small supplies since costs for installation of systems have a minimum base cost for equipment, construction, and materials,” the Michigan Farm Bureau said in its comment.

The Michigan Township Association said in its comment that the rules would require immense state support for small water systems, including grants, low-interest loans, and debt pooling in order to help with monitoring and cleanup and aid small water treatment plants that would otherwise have to pass costs on to low-income customers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio, at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sylvia Carignan at scarignan@bloombergenvironment.com; Renee Schoof at rschoof@bloombergenvironment.com

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