Photo by Sebastian Pichler

Even as more PFAS sites are spotted, Michigan legislators have worked to weaken the regulations that protect our communities. In a series of lame duck bills, one of the many distasteful nuggets buried deep in the mess of hurried laws included provisions to increase the amount of PFAS deemed safe for state guidelines.

Look at the surface, and there are plenty of ugly bits of lawmaking in these Senate bills. From health care protections and wage changes, the Michigan Senate spent the holidays pushing, rushing, and cramming through lame duck legislation that goes against the will of voters as expressed through Novembers midterm elections. As many Republicans move toward the door, many have taken a last stab at the environment, and that includes Governor Rick Snyder.

In particular, Senate Bill 1244 changes how PFAS are measured and at what levels they’ll be regarded as dangerous. Additionally, some chemicals of the PFAS family will be split of and measured separately, a move that experts say will reduce the amount of sites that may be determined as contaminated. As pointed out in the MLive article, much of the lobbying support behind these changes come from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and local chambers. Those associations would rather see new businesses take over these potentially polluted sites, adding new dollars to the economy, at the expense of exposing a whole new generation of workers and families to PFAS.

There is no benefit in sticking our heads in the ground and ignoring the sound science of testing these sites, and our energy should be invested not in endangering more of our friends and neighbors but holding the businesses and polluters accountable. It seems only a matter of time that we see elevated cancer clusters near these sites, and we have the ability right now to reduce the amount of people exposed. This legislation is largely passed, and it will be the work of our incoming legislators to reverse bills like 1244. Who knows what hard work will be pushed back with all the time we’ll spend unraveling these shady, short-sighted bills?

2019 is going to be the year of PFAS. We’ve only just begun to understand just how prevalent the issue is here in Michigan, and we have the opportunity and the responsibility to show other states how to deal with contaminated communities. From clean-up to health care for those exposed, what we do this year might impact hundreds of thousands of people around the country and around the world in the years to come.