Water Treatment

PFAS Information

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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
(PFOS).

What are the advisory levels for PFAS?

The Environmental Protection Agency (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 this webpage. 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.

How does the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)
new health screening limits for five types of PFAS affect the city’s water quality
management plans?

On April 4, 2019, 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.

Why doesn’t the city test for PFAS at my home?

PFAS concentrations do not change from the water treatment plant to your home, therefore, there is no need to test for PFAS within homes.

Can people bathe and swim in water containing PFAS?

The MDHHS has issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for the Huron River and advises people and their pets to avoid foam on the Huron River. Foam can have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water, and swallowing foam with PFAS could be a health risk. Swimming or bathing in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is typically low compared to the foam. Although swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it in your body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not a health concern. Although, current science indicates PFAS does not move easily through the skin, it’s best to rinse off foam, including family pets, after contact and bathe or shower after the day’s outdoor activities. None of this information changes recommendations for people’s water used at home. The City of Ann Arbor is exploring the installation of hand-rinsing stations in close proximity to the city’s canoe liveries this summer. These will be in addition to hand-washing facilities available in public restrooms at the liveries.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS) Huron River ‘Do Not Eat Fish’ Consumption Advisory​. More information about PFAS and foam is under the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.  

What are you 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 ww.a2gov.org/PFAS.

Read the PFAS Action Plan Fact Sheet 

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 traini​ng 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.​​​​

​Additional information​

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 To​xic 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. ​​​ 

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Brian Steglitz,
Water Treatment Plant Manager

919 Sunset Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Phone: 734.794.6426​
Email: water@a2gov.org

Business Hours: M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (except city holidays)​

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for water emergencies: 734.994.2840

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