Traverse City Hosts State Fire Marshal for PFAS Discussion

The state wants to know how to get rid one of the biggest contributors to toxic PFAS contaminations across Michigan, firefighting foam.

The State Fire Marshal was in Traverse City on Friday to do just that.

PFAS chemicals in the foam can get into drinking water, and have been linked to health problems including cancer.

There are several confirmed contamination sites in northern Michigan including the Alpena Combat Readiness Center in Alpena County, at Camp Grayling and Lake Margrethe in Crawford County and at the site of a fire at Carl’s Retreading in Grawn in Grand Traverse County.

One of the concerns regarding PFAS is a certain type of firefighting foam known as Class B foam.

It’s rarely used except to put out airplane fires or gas and oil fires.

The state fire marshal went to Traverse City Friday to talk about it.

State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer says the state has talked to close to 700 departments across the state.

He says about 45 percent of them have some of the Class B foam in question which contains PFAS.

“We want to get an idea of how much we have statewide so that we can look through a program to dispose of it properly so it doesn’t have an effect on the environment, and we’re looking to do that at one time with the state of Michigan coordinating that effort,” said Sehlmeyer.

The state’s found about 32,000 gallons so far, 170 of it in Traverse City. Fire Chief Jim Tuller says he can’t recall ever using it.

“I’ve been with the city 28 years and I cannot recall, and asking a couple of the other senior captains, we can’t recall ever using on emergency scene, but it’s always been one of those tools in the tool box and you’re absolutely correct, it’s a very specialty use type product,” said Tuller.

For now, the state is telling departments not to use the Class B foam unless it’s a life or death situation. They’re also looking at alternatives.

“What we’re finding out is even going from a C-8, which is the formula, to a C-6, which is what the military did, is there’s still some PFAS and PFOS in that,” said Sehlmeyer.

At least two of the options considered for getting rid of this foam include burning or mixing it with cement and then burying it in hazardous waste landfills.

U.S Senator Gary Peters called on the EPA to set standards last month.

He and Senator Debbie Stabenow introduced two bills requiring nationwide testing for PFAS.

And to hold federal facilities like Air Force bases accountable for addressing contamination.

“We’re not sure exactly the impact of PFAS on the human body, other than the fact we know it is bad. But we need to know a whole lot more. And then we have to start cleaning up sites as we’re finding them across the state of Michigan, particularly around airbases, there’s a responsibility for the federal government to pay for that cleanup,” said Peters.

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