Report: State knew of elevated PFAS levels in Flint River prior to switch


Flint Water Plant. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Flint Water Plant.

State officials knew about increased levels of PFAS in the Flint River's water prior to switching the city's water source in 2014.

MLive writes that a report released in May 2015 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services noted that Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tests between 2011 and 2013 showed elevated levels of PFAS.

The PFAS issue is separate from the lead problem, but is also dangerous. PFAS are manmade chemicals that make a range of products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water. Exposure to it is linked to thyroid damage, liver damage, and increases risk for cancer.

However, it's unclear who saw the report, and it's unlikely that anyone is going to claim they had knowledge of elevated PFAS levels before the switch.

DHHS spokeswoman Angela Minicuci told MLive the report was shared with the DEQ; Department of Natural Resources; Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It doesn't appear that officials at the city level saw the report — which was released roughly a year after the switch to the river — but the information had been collected by the DEQ between 2011 and 2013. That means officials at the state knew of the issue.

The DHHS report shows Flint River samples with concentrations of PFAS at 87.1 and 72.1 parts per trillion. That's above the federal advisory threshold for drinking water of 70 ppt, and over six times the state's standard for surface water quality.

The PFAS sources were identified as a nearby creek and landfill. The DHHS also found elevated PFAS levels near the Lapeer Plating & Plastics plant and the Lapeer Waste Water Treatment Plant.

It's unclear what role the revelation could play in criminal proceedings related to the water crisis.

So far, 15 people have been charged with a range of misdemeanors and felonies, and former DHHS Director Nick Lyon is standing trial on manslaughter charges. A special prosecutor alleges that he caused the deaths of two Genesee County men during the Flint water crisis. Public records have shown other DHHS officials knew of fatal Legionnaires' cases, and the suspicion that they were charged to the Flint water switch.

The special prosecutor alleges that Lyon knew of the deaths and failed to protect the public from the threat.

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