Investigation shows contaminants flowing into Michigan waterways

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan businesses are discharging large amounts of chemical contaminants into the state’s waterways every day, according to a newspaper investigation.

State officials began testing 93 treatment plants in February through an Industrial Pretreatment Program to examine discharge being sent by commercial customers.

MLive.com obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that show 16 of the plants received written orders over the past year to reduce industrial sources of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, found in their discharges.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked in epidemiological studies to some cancers, thyroid disorders, low birth weights, elevated cholesterol and other chronic diseases.

At least 130 businesses have been considered as potential sources of PFAS. Many of the businesses releasing chemicals are plating companies that make chrome parts for the auto industry.

“We haven’t used it in almost six years,” Lacks Enterprises CEO Nick Hrynyk said of the chemicals. “But it’s still there because it just clings.”

The highest recorded discharge level was 240,000-ppt of PFAS from Bronson Plating to the Bronson wastewater plant, which is about 25 miles south of Battle Creek. The plant discharges into Swan Creek, which connects to the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan.

Environmental advocates say the numbers are concerning.

“(Levels that high) could take years to move through the system, and could cause significant public health impacts during that time,” said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Teresa Seidel, director of the Water Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said the state is working to stop contamination from both manufacturers and the treatment plants.

“We want to see reasonable progress, reasonable growth, reasonable improvement in the system,” Seidel said. “We’re seeing that from everyone we’ve asked to step forward and work on this.”

Seidel said state officials hope that the steps taken to reduce pollution don’t come with “a whole lot of extra regulatory oversight. She said it’s important efforts don’t put “Michigan at a disadvantage against other states for economic growth and development, and will still be protective of the environment.”

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