Flint River fish precautions expanded after contamination around Lapeer

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LAPEER (WJRT) (10/4/2017) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is urging people to take precautions when eating fish from more of the Flint River.

That is due to contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, entering the river from Lapeer's wastewater and sewer system. The city's drinking water supply is not affected, according to a DEQ press release issued Wednesday.

Concentrations of PFAS have been found in surface water samples taken from the Flint River and its tributaries. Samples taken from the Lapeer Wastewater Treatment Plant and from various points in the city's sewer collection system indicate the contamination is originating at an electroplating facility.

DEQ officials did not name the company.

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals that are used in many industrial applications and consumer products, including firefighting foams, waterproof membranes for outdoor gear, paints, coatings and non-stick cookware.

Officials became aware of the contamination during routine water samples taken in 2013 and 2014. DEQ found PFAS in waters around the vacant Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda in 2011, prompting limited surveys around the state in 2013 and 2014.

Fish and water samples taken from the Flint River in 2013 and 2014 were found to have higher concentrations of contaminants compared to most of the other rivers sampled during those years. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provided an update in the spring 2015 release of the “Eat Safe Fish Guide” to include a fish consumption advisory in the Flint River downstream of the Mott Dam.

Updated fish consumption advice will include the entire Flint River in the next “Eat Safe Fish Guide,” which will be released in spring 2018. DEQ officials say the river is safe for general recreation, but anglers should follow the fish consumption advice.

DEQ officials are still working with the Lapeer Wastewater Treatment Plant and the company accused of putting PFAS into the water to eliminate the contamination. Lapeer is enforcing its industrial pretreatment program, which will prohibit the company from discharging PFAS into the sewer system.

Statewide PFAS investigation is continuing to identify potential contamination in waterways around Michigan.

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