Michigan Water Issues

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Podcast can be found HERE 

 

2. Persona and POV statement
  1. Persona

    1. Persona name: Jennifer Moore

    2. Age: 36

    3. School/occupation: Owns local juicery and Ann Arbor restaurant investor

    4. Location: Ann Arbor, MI

    5. Quote: “My kids are the things I love most in life, so I want to know that they’re drinking clean water and able to participate in local, outdoor activities without worrying about the side effects down the road.”

    6. About:

      1. Is married and has two kids who are both in Ann Arbor grade schools and involved in local sports leagues

      2. Loves the outdoors and is very into healthy eating (is pescatarian) and overall well being

      3. Has extended family in Ann Arbor and is an active part of the community

    7. Goals:

      1. Create and promote a healthy environment for her family to live in

      2. Continue to stay healthy, as she has battled cancer before

      3. Get kids to school and activities on time

  2. POV Statement

    1. User: Jennifer, a busy and loving wife and mother of two in Ann Arbor…

    2. Need: …needs to feel safe about drinking her local water sources and being active outdoors…

    3. Insight: …because she wants to make sure her kids and family are drinking safe water and don’t have to worry about the long-term effects of direct exposure to PFAS because she is a cancer survivor and doesn’t want to experience that within her family again.

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Inform public of severity, information, prevalence and effects of PFAS in their local water and consumer goods. This would done with local environmental safety groups spreading word through town halls, flyers, and other forms of activist communication throughout their communities.

SOLUTION 2: Regulate toxicity levels of PFAS in the manufacturing of consumer goods down to a non-hazardous level in all materials. This would have to be done through state law that would prohibit PFAS levels past a specific threshold.

SOLUTION 3: Detoxify local streams, rivers, and watersheds by specifically targeting PFAS sources located upstream of standing bodies of water to prevent further contamination downstream. Could be implemented through local or state wildlife and reserve groups/committees using volunteers. Can also attempt to get state funding for materials and tools needed to detoxify the water and use individuals required to complete community service to have the manpower to complete the detoxification, as it is not an activity that requires much skill.

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Senate Bill 1244 was signed into law during the last days of former governor Rick Snyder’s (R) time in office. The bill decreases discretion by state officials’ ability to interpret regulations regarding hazardous substance cleanups, spolls, standards, and toxicity values. The bill makes Michigan’s toxicity standards align with federal guidelines which are non-specific and slow to change with new information. Senate Bill 1244 forces state officials to neglect new water toxicity studies and enforce previous, outdated standards for toxicity which do contain sufficient, growing information regarding proper safety measures with PFAS and other related chemicals.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will make a difference in the lives of all students across Michigan because it will ensure healthy drinking water for them as they grow up in their homes, schools and other public recreation centers. On top of that, this proposal will ensure healthy local bodies of water for outdoor activities like daycamps, athletic competitions or general recreation. There is likely a significant impact on individuals by region, as people located near bodies of water contaminated by PFAS are more likely to be impacted than those not directly using contaminated water.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

After meeting with our main consultant, Jason Frenzel, we became aware of the looming, severe problem of PFAS and other water-resistant chemicals that are incorporated into many parts of our lives. When one water-resistant chemical is prohibited, another one replaces it. The utility of water-resistant chemicals is obvious in cookware, raingear, and any flame, water-retardant material one can imagine. However, with known connection to cancers, autoimmune disorders, etc, PFAS has deadly, intense effects on the micro-level. Upon learning its prominence not only in consumer goods but our local rivers and lakes, we knew PFAS was the most important water issue for Michigan.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

We have begun our service activity at Habitat for Humanity ReStore which is an organization that takes in old, worn, donated furniture to repair and “restore” back to an acceptable condition for low-income families to purchase at very reasonable prices. While much of the volunteering was manual labor and moving, assembling furniture, we were also able to engage with many of the families interested in purchasing the affordable furniture. While not directly related to Michigan water issues, specifically PFAS toxicity, Habitat for Humanity was able to give us more insight as to who is really affected by issues like PFAS.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Jason Frenzel, Huron River Watershed Council Stewardship Coordinator - had lots of information regarding multiple water issues affecting students within the state of Michigan and helped us narrow down which topic to do our proposal on. Gave us informative background context on the issue and suggested steps that could improve its current state. Is featured on the media artifact (podcast).

CONSULTATION 2: John Benedict, ENVIRON 201: Ecological Issues Professor - gather more information about PFAS and understand the specific environmental ramifications they cause for humans as well as wildlife species.

CONSULTATION 3: Emily Woodcock, Clean Water Action Staff Director - brainstorm and refine potential solutions to the issue of PFAS contamination and how to best approach the problem at hand.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

When meeting for our proposal check-in with Prof Kupperman, he suggested that we consider making the Persona/POV section more about someone who is more at risk and less able to combat the issue of PFAS contamination. Despite the fact that Jennifer Moore is a great example of someone who is directly affected by the issue, she is also privileged and wealthy enough to invest in her own personal water filters or take action and start a movement that may not represent the majority of individuals affected by the issue. Instead, we may consider someone who is more socioeconomically challenged and affected just as much by the issue, but doesn’t have the time, money or knowledge to make a change. Despite the fact that our Persona/POV section has not been changed to represent Prof Kupperman’s suggestion, we are seriously considering the shift due to the fact that this is not an Ann Arbor issue, but an issue for people throughout Michigan, and the latter Persona/POV is a more comprehensive representation of the topic’s victims.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

While we knew we wanted to pursue water issues in Michigan, we did not know which issue we wanted to pursue for our proposal. When we first met with our main consultant, Jason Frenzel, we asked questions regarding Nestle aquifer pumping and water export rights as well as policies and plans of action to mitigate aquatic invasive species from taking over the Great Lakes ecosystem. Our research, as seen in environmental issue provocations and other posts, were related to these areas and we had every intent on pursuing one of these topics. However, Jason, well aware of water issues in Michigan, turned us to PFAS and water toxicity. What really made me want to pursue this topic was the lack of public knowledge on the issue and the scale of the issue. As an Ann Arbor resident, Billy had been swimming in bodies of water with significant levels of PFAS and neither family, friends, or anyone he knew had any knowledge of its negative associations like cancer. This brought us to a difficult position because it seemed like there was nowhere to go with this proposal but to inform the public. Having talked with Jason further, he shed light on possible, tangible, yet significant ways this problem can be lessened and solved past simple awareness as well as the influence of chemical companies and manufacturers in Michigan.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

The original idea to focus on Michigan water issues was presented by Billy, as he had knowledge of the topic beforehand and is a resident of Michigan. After meeting with our first consultant and establishing a relatively equal understanding of the issue and its effects, Billy and Logan worked collaboratively and equally on contributing to the Media Artifact, Persona/POV, Potential Solutions and Final Proposal. Logan did editing for the Media Artifact, as it was a podcast, and Billy refined the wording of the 3 Potential Solutions seen above.

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... PFAS are incredibly toxic, synthetic chemicals used to manufacture many common household products and currently found throughout multiple bodies of water within Michigan.

WHEREAS.... People are incredibly uninformed about the issue and effects of PFAS, therefore not generating the attention needed to make a policy change.

WHEREAS.... There is no current testing, cleanup or required regulations for PFAS concentration in national drinking water whatsoever, allowing companies to emit the chemicals into the environment.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Mandate that all bodies of drinking water be tested for PFAS levels to gather necessary data until further studies are created. Provide volunteers and environmental advocacy groups with necessary testing equipment to gather PFAS data levels in local bodies of water.

2. Provide research grants to establish studies regarding the short and long-term effects of PFAS on water consumption, physical contact, and consumption of fish and other aquatic animals who have been in constant contact with PFAS. The purpose of this is to determine safe levels of PFAS exposure in bodies of water since that information is yet to be discovered.

3. Require entities contributing to the issue of PFAS toxicity in local bodies of water to implement alternative strategies to dispose of the chemicals so there is no further contamination in local bodies of water.

4. Mandate that PFAS toxicity levels found in drinking water above 7-11 ppt (toxicity levels of similar chemicals PFOS and PFOA) require a state funded clean up to bring levels back to safe consumption.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. The Midland Dow community within Michigan relies heavily on employment by Dow Chemical, a potential leading force contaminating water with PFAS chemicals. By requiring Dow Chemical to consider alternative ways to discard of PFAS, the corporation’s costs will likely rise and the company may need to find ways to trim unnecessary operations, potentially labor/employees

2. There are no current data points and not enough specific information on PFAS toxicity that the state and nation use for reference and therefore the ramifications of PFAS are unknown to the government.

3. There is not enough state funding to contribute the necessary resources and equipment to diminish the effects of PFAS in drinking water and funding used on PFAS research and regulation can be more efficiently allocated to problems the state has hard evidence on.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

PFAS testing through water regulation and filtration companies can cost as low as $300. Whether state regulated or through approved volunteer, environmental protection groups, these kits can be distributed for their members to do the physical testing. The main stakeholder against PFAS reduction are chemical companies that produce PFAS and similar chemicals for manufacturers of water-resistant materials and clothing. Lost revenue would be seen in these companies’ change towards increased steps toward preventing contamination and a shift away from producing these chemicals potentially meaning loss of employment and corporate profits. Funding for these regulations should come from the state, specifically department of environmental quality, since this is an issue that should be at the forefront of this department’s concern. In order to fund this, the department’s budget may need to be increased if funds cannot be allocated properly. The testing cost can be marginally decreased with economies of scale on a statewide level. The bulk of the cost, aside from research grants to evaluate the significance of PFAS levels in our water, would come from contamination cleanups using filtration systems costing upwards of $5,000 per unit. Depending on the size of the body of water, many units may be required taking up the bulk of the cost in this proposal.

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

https://www.environmentalcouncil.org/pfas_in_michigan

https://toxicsaction.org/issues/pfas-water-contamination/

https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2017/10/how_to_test_water_for_pfas.html

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Total votes: 1