EAST LANSING, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a field hearing in East Lansing to examine federal efforts and coordination with state and local governments to clean up and prevent contamination from per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS), as well as the impact that exposure to these toxic chemicals has had on servicemembers, first responders, families, and other Michiganders. At Peters’ request, senior federal officials from the Department of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to Michigan to testify about how federal agencies are working to address PFAS contamination across Michigan, including at military sites. Peters also hosted current and former Michigan residents, representing state and local perspectives, who testified about the devastating impacts of PFAS exposure, and how the federal government can better coordinate with state and local governments to tackle the crisis.
“These chemicals continue to pose significant risks to our communities, and more than 2 million Michiganders have been exposed to these toxic chemicals in their drinking water. In particular, servicemembers, first responders, their families, and residents of communities surrounding military sites across Michigan have continued to face sustained exposure to PFAS. These folks, many of whom served our country, deserve better,” said Senator Peters during his opening statement. “I have pushed for the federal agencies responsible for PFAS contamination to take a more proactive approach to addressing this crisis.”
Peters continued: “Michiganders are continuing to suffer the consequences of exposure to these hazardous chemicals, and the government must do more to protect the health of our communities. I will continue pushing the federal agencies that are responsible for PFAS contamination to take additional steps to help affected communities clean up these sites.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions with the panel of federal witnesses, click here.
To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks for the panel of Michigan witnesses, click here.
To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions for the panel of Michigan witnesses, click here.
To watch video of Senator Peters’ closing remarks, click here.
During the hearing, Peters pressed federal officials from DOD about efforts to address PFAS contamination at military sites around the state, including areas around Camp Grayling and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Peters also asked the federal witnesses about how their agencies are working to coordinate with state, local and Tribal governments to clean up and prevent exposure to these toxic chemicals. A representative from the EPA discussed the agency’s work to set national drinking water standards. Peters pressed witnesses from DOD about the Air Force’s efforts to improve communication and transparency on PFAS response and remediation plans in communities such as Oscoda. The hearing also discussed efforts to ensure the federal government can better understand how these harmful substances impact Michiganders’ health and communities.
A second panel of witnesses representing local perspectives in Michigan testified about what the federal government can learn from states’ robust and coordinated PFAS response to effectively address this crisis at the national level. Peters also asked the Michigan witnesses, including a local resident in Oscoda and a veteran who served at Wurtsmith, to highlight how PFAS contamination has affected the health and wellbeing of servicemembers, their families and communities across the state.
The hearing builds on Peters’ longstanding efforts to address PFAS contamination. His bill to protect firefighters from hazardous PFAS chemicals has passed the Senate. Peters recently introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen and expand federal research on PFAS contamination. His bipartisan legislation to reduce the spread of PFAS chemicals at commercial airports has advanced in the Senate. Last year, Peters convened a hearing to examine how servicemembers, their families and communities across the country have been harmed by exposure to toxic PFAS substances connected to military sites. In September 2018, Peters helped convene the first hearing on PFAS contamination in the Senate, assessing the federal response to contamination and remediation. He then convened a field summit in Grand Rapids in November 2018 to shine a light on how the local, state and federal governments are coordinating their response to PFAS.