Here we go again: Michigan declares state of emergency after cancer-causing chemical confirmed in the public water supply

The state of Michigan has declared a local state of emergency in the city of Parchment after high levels of toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found in the municipal water source there.

On July 26, residents were told to stop drinking water after tests showed that the city’s water supply had 1,587 parts per trillion of PFAS. This level is more than 20 times greater than the lifetime health advisory set by the EPA of 70 ppt. Officials have also provided instructions for residents to flush the toxic tap water from laundry machines, ice makers, dishwashers, and water heaters that may be contaminated with the chemical.

Even after flushing, however, the water is not safe to drink. Residents have also been told that they should re-wash any clothes and dishes that were cleaned in the first week of the warning as residents were initially told that using the toxic water for these purposes was safe. It is not clear how long these high PFAS levels have been in Parchment’s water supply.

Exposure to the manmade PFAS chemicals has been linked to a higher risk of liver damage and cancer. There are a lot of questions about its long-term effects, but it’s also known to hurt fertility and immunity and disrupt hormonal functioning. State officials have not commented on whether the contamination has caused any health problems in the area.

Michigan’s water continues to be questionable

Kalamazoo public works crews are now flushing the city’s water lines. This could stir up sediment and cause water discoloration, and residents have been advised not to drink the water until further notice. While northeastern Kalamazoo residents might also see some water discoloration because of the greater amount of water moving through their system, officials have said that the tap water there is safe to drink because controls are in place to stop the Parchment water from flowing into Kalamazoo’s water.

On Sunday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder toured a Parchment water system construction site where a new pressure reduction system is being installed to allow the city to transition to Kalamazoo water.

Kent County has been struggling with PFAS throughout the past year, with lower levels of PFAS also detected in places like Portage. Michigan now leads the country in terms of PFAS testing.

For now, Parchment residents can pick up bottled water at Parchment High School on weekdays between noon and 8 PM, and on-site recycling is also being offered to return the empty water bottles.

Parchment residents aren’t the only ones struggling with exposure to this toxic chemical as a recent study found the drinking water in 33 states tested positive for PFAS, placing an estimated 16 million Americans at risk of drinking polluted water. Some of the sites are situated near military installations that use firefighting foam that contains these chemicals, while others are found near chemical plants that use PFAS.

Michigan has the highest number of PFAS sites of all states, according to the Environmental Working Group, prompting Gov. Snyder to set up a PFAS Action Response Team. Michigan has 30 PFAS sites on record, but it’s quite possible there are many others that have yet to be discovered. The state has even asked sewage plants to ask industrial customers about PFAS use because the toxins can survive waste water treatment and wind up in biosolid sludge that is dumped on crops.

There is no telling when Parchment residents will be able to drink their water without worry, and this story serves as a reminder to all of us that you never know what is lurking in your tap water. That’s why a water filtration system is always a good idea if you want peace of mind.

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