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Michigan Gets to Work on PFAS Safe Drinking Water MCL

Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) is working to implement Governor Whitmer’s March 26, 2019directive that the state propose new drinking water standards for an undetermined subset of the thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by October 1, 2019. MPART, on April 11, 2019, appointed three scientists to a Science Advisory Workgroup and directed the workgroup to review existing and proposed health-based drinking water standards for various PFAS compounds from around the nation.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), soon to be part of the new Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), was directed by the Governor to work with the Science Advisory Workgroup to develop health-based values for PFAS compounds by the end of June -- an ambitious but critical step for developing Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) in drinking water. Thereafter, MDEQ will propose draft rules, seeking stakeholder input that, according to the governor’s directive, must be proposed by October 1st. Following administrative rulemaking procedures, a final MCL drinking water standard could be adopted by April 2020. The directive leaves to agency deference which of the thousands of PFAS compounds MDEQ will select for developing MCLs.

Michigan, like most states, has typically (if not always) simply adopted those MCLs developed federally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). States have called on the EPA to develop MCLs for certain PFAS compounds. In response, the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, released earlier this year, stated the agency was moving forward with the MCL process for PFOA and PFOS—two of the most well-known and prevalent PFAS chemicals. The EPA, however, did not provide a timeline and the implication was that federal MCLs could take several years or more. The next federal action under the Safe Drinking Water Act that the agency describedwas to propose a “regulatory determination,” which would provide the opportunity for the public to contribute to the information the EPA will consider related to regulating certain PFAS compounds for drinking water. Some states, like Michigan, have decided not to wait for this EPA process to continue with indeterminate outcomes and timeframes, and have instead undertaken to set their own state-based MCLs.

PFAS regulatory approaches continue to emerge and evolve. This MCL development is just one of the many actions that are being taken in Michigan and many other states across the nation.

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 107


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...

Jeffrey Longsworth, Barnes Thornburg Law Frim, Washington DC, Environmental Law Attorney

Jeffrey S. Longsworth is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and the D.C. administrator of the Environmental Department, which was recently recognized as Tier 1 for national environmental litigation in the annual "Best Law Firms" ranking by U.S. News and Best Lawyers. He is involved in counseling and litigating issues that arise under federal environmental laws and regulations, with an emphasis on Clean Water Act matters, especially issues involving permitting, stormwater, effluent limitations guidelines, enforcement, inspections and spill prevention.

Mr. Longsworth was appointed to the EPA Federal Advisory Committee on Urban Wet Weather Flows, which was established in 1996. He frequently teaches environmental law courses around the country, and serves as editorial advisor to several industry publications. He has served on the Montgomery County (Maryland) Water Quality Advisory Board.

Mr. Longsworth serves as special environmental counsel to numerous national trade associations, industries, coalitions and state/municipal government agencies before federal and state regulatory and enforcement authorities. He works closely within the federal rulemaking process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and White House Office of Management and Budget, to name a few. Mr. Longsworth also works closely with many state regulatory agencies and advises clients and the firm’s legislative team on environmental issues arising under federal legislation.

Mr. Longsworth graduated from Amherst College in 1984 and received his J.D. in 1991 from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where he served as a member of the Law Review.

Mr. Longsworth is admitted to practice in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, and 9th Circuits.

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...