Senator Peters holds PFAS panel; EPA a no-show

Posted at 5:54 PM, Nov 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-13 17:54:58-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The growing discussion involving PFAS contamination and how to clean it up continued at Grand Valley State University's downtown campus today.

Senator Gary Peters interviewed experts on the topic, as well as Sandy Wynn-Stelt who lost her husband in 2016.

"He was diagnosed with stage IV liver cancer, and he died 3 weeks later," the Belmont resident said.

Wynn-Stelt explained, "So after being married for 25 years my world was completely rocked."

She's lived on House Street for nearly three decades around what's now known to be an old tannery site of Wolverine Worldwide. That's where the company's barrels contaminated the groundwater with PFAS decades ago, and it continues to have an impact. She said she and her neighbors live in fear of the long-term affect PFAS may have on their bodies.

"In 2017, my blood was tested and was found to have, I think it's 5 million parts per trillion," Wynn-Stelt explained.

Dr. Patrick Breysse said PFAS levels above 21 parts per trillion may be of concern.

Bob Delaney, an employee with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, was featured by FOX 17 last year. He described then, and again Tuesday, how he presented his PFAS concerns to the Snyder administration in 2010 and again in 2012. However, to his knowledge they did nothing.

Delaney said, "The problem was that we were not in a cultural environment where people were really willing to face these kind of issues, and so the politicians reflect where the culture's at."

He said he wrote the 2012 report in hopes of reaching critical mass. It's a point where there's enough concern and momentum to take action. He said he believes society has finally reached that point and that the federal government is stepping in where the state of Michigan failed.

Peters said, "I think the biggest take away is we have to come up with a federal standard. There has to be a uniform standard put in place. It has to happen quickly. Certainly you're hearing from the witnesses it's going to take some time for science, but I think it's very clear that people can't wait."

He also called for transparency, reliable data and the need to take action.

The US Environmental Protection Agency was not in attendance. Peters said the agency did submit a letter. He said he'll continue to press the EPA in Washington on helping move communities across the country forward in eliminating PFAS use and finding safer alternatives.