While the threat of contamination from Line 5 looms large, the fact is, Michigan's water has been under attack from deadly chemicals for decades.
Water is, by its nature, very dirty. It absorbs contaminants, or carries them great distances. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are part of a group of chemicals used in numerous industrial and military applications. PFAS is in the foam that extinguishes fires. It is a waterproofer. A non-stick coating. And it has been there for years.
Developed by Dupont, sold to 3M. Like many consumer products, it was first used in the military. Despite the risks of contamination, the fire-fighting foam proved more effective than protein-based chemicals. It was one risk versus another. In 1967, after a fire on the deck of the USS Forrestal killed and injured hundreds, the switch was made.
It takes an entire generation to measure the effects of the contaminants. PFAS chemicals are finding their way into water sources throughout Michigan, and all over the globe. We have been exposed. Now we have to investigate.
Signs were posted: DO NOT EAT THE FISH near particularly suspicious waterways. The deer in certain areas were unsafe to eat, upsetting hunters all over our state. Until it hits home, we all prefer to live in blissful ignorance. We would rather ignore it, I know I would. We have found numerous sites throughout the country, where PFAS contamination has reached critical levels. Solutions exist. But how long are we going to wait before we step up force the changes that will save lives?
There is a risk in speaking up. And a greater risk if we don't.