Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Parchment Water Crisis Part 2

In my previous post I shared the original letter that I sent out to local and state government officials. On the list of people I sent it to was Governor Snyder, and yesterday I received the following email response from his office:

Dear Ms. Adams-Fall,

On behalf of Governor Rick Snyder, I am responding to your recent email where you outlined your concerns with regards to PFAS and Parchment’s municipal water system. As the Director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) I am committed to ensuring that residents in Parchment and the surrounding communities are provided timely information along with available resources to address questions.

In 2017, Governor Snyder created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), the nation’s first gubernatorial appointed multiagency action team charged with leading a cohesive and comprehensive response and recovery to PFAS contamination statewide. Due to proactive investigatory efforts, to date, MPART has identified 34 geographically dispersed sites in Michigan with known PFAS contamination. Additionally, MPART is undertaking a first of its kind statewide testing of every community water system regardless of size.  This was how we discovered PFAS in the drinking water system in Parchment.  This effort was funded by the legislature at the Governor’s request.  As you are aware, when contamination was discovered, the state administration, in partnership with local government, acted immediately to protect public health. 

The scientific community has indicated that exposure to high levels of PFAS may pose a significant public health risk to vulnerable populations, including infants and pregnant women, and to those with long-term exposure.  As medical research regarding the health implications of this suite of chemicals continues to evolve, it is apparent that exposure to elevated PFAS levels should be avoided.  With regards to having your blood tested, it is my understanding that you have received an appointment with your primary care physician to move this process forward.  Further, the Chief Medical Officer from the state contacted the Health Officer from Kalamazoo County, Dr. Nettleton, and he indicated he would contact you directly to answer your questions. 

In answer to other questions you posed in your email:

  1. In response to your request to have regularly scheduled town halls we do have reoccurring town halls in any area of the state that has had significant finding of PFAS contamination.
  2. Regarding a community or state-wide blood test for individuals we recommend a discussion with a personal health provider to understand the association between a blood level for PFAS and any potential health issues. These private and focused discussions will allow each individual situation to be professionally assessed.  Regarding larger studies for a community exposed to elevated levels of PFAS, we have had discussions of exposure monitoring for populations within Michigan.  Such studies require formation of a research plan.  We have actively promoted such studies with the federal government and continue to access the potential for biomonitoring and research studies in Michigan.
  3. In answer to your question about compensation for loss, we are currently doing an investigation concerning the source of the contamination.  When the source of contamination has been determined a discussion will occur with the responsible party.  Our first focus will be mitigating people’s exposure to elevated amounts of PFAS and then establishing long term remediation of the contamination.
  4. With regards to the personal financial loss that you experienced with the produce in your garden, the state does have programs for those that qualify to support families with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Local programs such as Double-Up Food Bucks (866-586-2796) and Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes Mobile Food Initiative (269-488-2617) are available to residents in your area.

The PFAS challenges in Michigan are important and the Governor, MPART, and hundreds of state and municipal employees are working diligently to address this statewide issue. As residents of Michigan, we are all committed to supporting the residents of Parchment as well as other impacted communities throughout state. You may find additional information on the state’s response to PFAS, please go to:

Carol Isaacs
Director, Michigan PFAS Action Response Team

I honestly was appalled by this response, and felt that it was completely lacking in any sort of relevant information. I sent the following email response within an hour of receiving their email:

Dear Mrs. Isaacs,

I appreciate you taking the time to communicate with me regarding the letter I sent to the office of the Governor two weeks ago, thank you. However, I am quite surprised by some of your responses. You start buy telling me that you are committed to providing me with timely information and resources, but this email has taken two weeks to occur as a response to my initial letter. In that time frame I have received varied responses from the Kalamazoo Health Department, Parchment City Commission, and DEQ. Also, through a significant amount of digging on my part, I was able to have it confirmed that I have been given a significant amount of misinformation from each of those departments as well. I do not believe at this point that either the citizens of Parchment at large, or myself have received timely information, or adequate resources to address our wide range of concerns. 

It is my understanding at this time, and please correct me if I am wrong, that the state of Michigan has been aware of potential PFAS issues since 2012, and did not start testing our water for them until the start of this summer. I would not call a span of six years an immediate response. While I am glad to hear that MPART has been formed, I have yet to be impressed with their response to the needs of people in my community, or other communities in Michigan dealing with PFAS contamination. 

Currently, we have had ONE town hall meeting about the water issue here in Parchment, and that was three weeks ago. I have continuously asked when the next one will be scheduled, and the repeated answers are 'I don't know' 'Not yet' and 'When we have more information', and quite frankly, I expect a better answer. I would like to see a meeting happen as soon as possible, with several more scheduled into the near future. The people of Parchment have a right to an open public forum with government and health officials regardless of whether or not more information has been received yet. 

Regarding a blood test, I have already discussed the option for a test with both my General Practitioner, and  Doctor of Osteopathy, both of whom were willing to order the blood test for me, but unable to do so as it it is currently not available in the State of Michigan. I have also had multiple discussions directly with William Nettleton. I am not confused at all regarding what the blood test will show, and what it can and cannot be used for. I understand that it will not help diagnose or treat current, past or future illnesses. I believe that ever single person who has been exposed to unsafe levels of PFAS in their water has the right to a blood test provided to them by the state of Michigan, and I will continue to work towards seeing that happen.

Your response to my query about the loss of my garden, is quite frankly, extremely offensive to me. Loaves and fishes is a food bank. Double up food bucks is an initiative of the food stamp program in Michigan, they are programs put in place to assist people in times of extreme economic hardship. They are in no way related to the PFAS crisis in Parchment, and should not ever be held accountable for restitution purposes. I am not eligible for the programs you are suggesting, they would be incapable of replacing the yield of the over 200 food bearing plants in my garden, or the HUNDREDS of jars of home preserves I have made, and it would be absolutely ridiculous to even consider using those programs as a solution to this problem.

If I sound frustrated, it's because I am. I have spent weeks seeking answers and results, and seen none. Your responses to my questions sound like a campaign pitch, a form letter, and completely out of touch with the reality of living in a community where we have been told we are poisoned and then given no further information for weeks on end. You have offered me no real solutions in this letter, just more jargon and another brush off; and I am extremely disappointed that when I finally heard from you, this was your response. Please try to remember that the citizens of Parchment and other affected communities are real,  life human beings, and that we are your constituents. We elect our officials in the hopes that they will care about our needs and do what is necessary to ensure our health and safety. I appreciate all of the efforts that are being made to insure the forthcoming delivery of clean water to Parchment residents, and sincerely hope that I will see the other surrounding health and environmental issues be addressed and dealt with also.

Thank you for your time, I hope to receive further information and correspondence from your office moving forward.

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