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June 01, 2020

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Michigan DEQ Says Industrial Pretreatment Programs Must Address Emerging Containment PFAS

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is conducting a series of informational sessions in March 2018 to discuss its recently announced Industrial Pretreatment Program requirements related to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to be completed before the end of June 2018. PFAS are emerging contaminants of concern that have historically been used for their stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick properties. PFAS have now been found in drinking water sources at several locations throughout Michigan.

In its February 2018 letter to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) that have pretreatment programs, the MDEQ announced it is requiring all such WWTPs to evaluate potential PFAS sources, investigate probable sources, reduce or eliminate any sources found, and take other action as needed to protect surface water quality.

According to the MDEQ, these measures are required for pretreatment programs to ensure that WWTPs do not discharge any PFAS in quantities greater than applicable water quality standards. Although there are many chemicals within the PFAS family, two are governed by water quality standards in Michigan: 1) For PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), the standard is 12 ng/l (nanograms per liter or parts per trillion) for streams that are not used for drinking water and 11 ng/l for those that are used as a drinking water source, and 2) For PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), the water quality standard is 12,000 ng/l for lakes and streams that are not used for drinking water and 420 ng/l for those used as a drinking water source.

Manufacturing facilities that could be potential sources could include industrial plating operations where PFAS were used as demisters for plating and etching baths; operations where leather and fabrics were treated (typically with water- or stain-resistant coatings); paper and packaging manufacturing where PFAS may have used in coatings; and bearing and wire parts manufacturing where parts may have PTFE (a PFAS substance) coatings. Airports, including those that are or were military facilities, could also be potential sources due to PFAS contained in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) used for fire suppression.

Other potential sources could include centralized wastewater systems and landfills that may have accepted waste from facilities using PFAS, and remediation groundwater from PFAS-contaminated sites.

WWTPs have until June 29, 2018, to submit an interim report on PFAS investigation, sampling, and source reduction efforts. For WWTPs with a large number of industrial dischargers, it may be difficult to complete all requirements within this aggressive timeline, due to the time and resources necessary to investigate historic operations that might contribute to PFAS discharges. MDEQ is allowing WWTPs until May 1, 2018, to submit extension requests if needed.

This effort by the MDEQ Water Resources Division is just one of many being conducted by multiple state agencies under the Governor’s Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). Any facility that used or treats PFAS, including wastewater and drinking water utilities, should carefully follow these developing issues and understand how these and other new requirements might affect their operations.

Erika Powers, Frederic Andes, and Jeffrey Longsworth contributed to this article.



About this Author

Tammy Helminski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Environmental Law Attorney

Tammy L. Helminski is an associate in the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg, and a member of the firm’s Environmental Law Department. Ms. Helminski has experience with environmental due diligence and risk evaluation, project management of large-scale remediation sites involving numerous parties, and assisting manufacturing and developer clients with environmental auditing and compliance. Her litigation experience includes representing clients in cases involving CERCLA, NEPA, RCRA and NREPA, as well as product liability, mold, asbestos, construction and contract litigation...

Charles Denton Environmental Attorney

Charlie Denton represents an array of clients in environmental and toxic tort litigation, enforcement defense, regulatory compliance solutions and pollution insurance coverage disputes. He also serves as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) neutral mediator and arbitrator. Persistent and highly collaborative, Charlie can take complicated issues and challenges and then identify a strategic path to achieve the client’s objectives.

Charlie’s representation of industrial, municipal, institutional, educational and individual clients includes judicial and administrative environmental proceedings at the federal, state and local levels. He also represents policyholders involved in environmental coverage claim disputes and litigation with millions of dollars in the balance.

In addition, Charlie assists clients with managing environmental risks in commercial transactions, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, as well as ISO 14000 environmental management systems. He advises on lender liability issues and environmental audits to assess potential facility contamination and regulatory compliance for the acquisition and financing of real estate, as well as waste management and remedial actions, environmental permits enforcement, and defense of citizens’ suits.

Charlie serves as a zealous advocate for his clients, focusing on their specific strategic goals and finding solutions that solve their immediate and long-term challenges. Charlie makes a point of understanding his clients’ core objectives from the onset of representation to keep their environmental matter in perspective.

Charlie serves as a federal court arbitrator/mediator/neutral evaluator, a state court facilitative mediator, and an arbitrator and mediator for private ADR proceedings. When serving as a neutral, Charlie remains personally dedicated to finding a balanced approach to dispute resolution that meets the needs and interests of the parties involved. Charlie is valued for his thoughtful understanding of the underlying business and legal issues that permeate every dispute, as well as for his calming approach to resolving the people challenges and emotional aspects that underlie most acrimony. An active listener, Charlie serves as a catalyst to working constructively with even the most disparate parties to achieve a reasonable outcome.

Charlie is actively involved with key industry, legal and environmental associations, often in leadership roles. He is the author and co-author of several publications highlighting environmental law topics, and gives frequent presentations for the American Bar Association, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and State Bar Associations for Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin