What is PFAS?
It is an abbreviation for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances which are man-made chemicals used in metal plating and a wide variety of consumer products including fire-suppressing foam, carpets, paints, polishes and waxes. The most studied types of PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroctanesulfonic acid
What are the advisory levels for PFAS?
The EPA has set a lifetime health advisory level for the combined amount of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water not to exceed 70 parts per trillion (ppt). That is the level, or amount, below which no harm is expected from these chemicals, based on daily consumption over a lifetime. The State of Michigan has indicated their intent to regulate PFAS and develop a maximum contaminant level by October 2019. City staff will be following the regulatory process.
What are the levels of PFAS in Ann Arbor’s drinking water?
In 2019, PFOA and PFOS levels in Ann Arbor’s drinking water have been less than 10 ppt. As part of our action plan, it is our goal to keep PFOS and PFOA below 10 ppt, significantly below the 70 ppt health advisory level. Levels for the 24 PFAS that we are testing for twice per month can be found on our website at www.QualityWaterMatters.org. Ultimately, our goal is to work with local and state partners to eliminate PFAS at the source and keep it from entering our waterways.
What is being done to protect our drinking water from PFAS?
In 2018 and 2019, the city installed a new type of granular activated carbon in our filters to increase removal of PFAS from our drinking water. The filters have been working as expected and the levels of PFAS have further dropped below the EPA’s health advisory levels, some to undetectable amounts.
Read the PFAS Action Plan Fact Sheet
Does Ann Arbor test drinking water for PFAS?
The City currently sends samples from the intakes at Barton Pond and finished drinking water to be measured for PFAS each month. PFAS are not reactive, and concentrations in a homeowner’s drinking water will be the same as the concentration leaving the plant.
Because the PFAS concentration does not change between the plant and a homeowner’s home, then the City will not pay to test individual homeowner’s drinking water for PFAS. The City sends its samples to a commercial lab for PFAS analysis because it does not have the capability to measure PFAS on site. Analysis for PFAS requires specialized equipment, and the method is very complex.
How does MDHHS new health screening limits for five types of PFAS affect the city’s water quality management plans?
On April 4, 2019, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) published health screening levels for five PFAS: PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS and PFBS. The city’s current PFAS management strategy remains more restrictive than current regulations and is protective of public health, even with the announcement of these new screening levels. The city anticipates that new information on PFAS health impacts will continue to be released over the coming months and year. The city is committed to reviewing all new information and will adjust its management strategy as necessary to ensure public health is protected.
Are recreational activities along the Huron River impacted by PFAS?
Since PFAS does not easily absorb into the skin, people can bathe, swim and also do laundry and household cleaning with water containing PFAS as getting it on the skin is not harmful. However, in August 2018, the MDHHS issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for the Huron River and advised people and their pets to avoid swallowing foam from the river as it can have higher concentrations of PFAS.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) Huron River ‘Do Not Eat Fish’ Consumption Advisory.
What is the city doing to protect our waterways?
We continue to leverage our partnerships with local organizations, such as the Huron River Watershed Council, to help ensure that our watershed is adequately protected from substances that might impact your drinking water. In addition, the city is lobbying to ensure that the state and its environmental regulatory agencies remain focused on protecting our waterways. While emerging contaminants may continue to be detected, our dedicated staff are prepared to not only face these challenges, but also remain an industry leader in pioneering solutions.
Where can I see test results of PFAS in our water?
Independent lab verified testing results of PFAS in the source water and finished drinking water are posted on this webpage.
Does the City's Fire Department use firefighting foam with PFAS in it?
In the past, like many fire departments, the Ann Arbor Fire Department (AAFD) maintained a stock of firefighting foam that contained PFAS chemicals and was used for fighting flammable liquid fires such as gasoline, oil and other hydrocarbons.
In the fall of 2018, the AA FD agreed to immediately halt use of this type of foam for training purposes and to seek alternative options for fighting such fires. In October of 2018, the AAFD purchased foam that is free of PFAS. The old foam was disposed of properly via a regulated waste disposal company.
To learn more about PFAS and what you can do to prevent being exposed or using products with PFAS, here a few good resources:
Environmental Protection Agency PFAS Basic Information
Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR) has health information, exposure, and links to additional resources
Washtenaw County Health Department Environmental Health staff 734.222.3800.
Residents can also contact the State’s Environmental Assistance Center by phone at 800.662.9278.