Stabenow, Peters, Kildee Announce Funding to Address Drinking Water Contamination in Federal Budget Bill

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) today announced that the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget bill includes funding to address ongoing drinking water contamination issues in communities across Michigan. The appropriations bill now goes before the full House and Senate. The lawmakers:


  • Secured $10 million to fund a health study on the impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure, which is critically needed to establish stronger federal standards defining safety levels for PFAS exposure.


  • Increased funding to investigate and clean up contamination at active and decommissioned military bases. The Department of Defense may use this funding to clean up contamination at bases across the country, including Michigan’s Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Camp Grayling, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, and Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point.


  • Doubled the size of USDA Rural Development emergency water grants to eligible communities affected by drinking water contamination, from $500,000 to $1 million. This will allow eligible communities impacted by this crisis to qualify for double the funding to connect homes to municipal drinking water or build a water source, intake or treatment facility.


“I’m deeply concerned about this growing problem and the number of families and service members who have been exposed,” said Senator Stabenow. “What’s even scarier is that we don’t know the full extent and long term impact of exposure to these chemicals. I’m fully committed to working with federal, state, and local partners on short- and long-term assistance for those who have been affected.”


“Families, service members and veterans across Michigan face unknown health risks from exposure to contaminated water, and this health study is an important step towards understanding the potential impacts of these dangerous chemicals,” said Senator Peters. “I’m also pleased we were able to secure additional funding to begin to provide relief and help communities clean up contamination at known sites around the state. I’ll continue working with Senator Stabenow and Congressman Kildee to ensure that Michigan families have access to safe and reliable drinking water sources.”


“Working with Senator Stabenow and Peters, we were able to include important investments in this bill to address drinking water contamination issues across Michigan,” said Congressman Kildee. “Funding a national health study about the dangers of PFAS contaminants will help ensure that veterans and residents exposed to the chemicals get the care they need. Additionally, doubling the size of federal emergency water grants for places like Oscoda will mean that communities can act more quickly to provide safe drinking water. I’m grateful to the entire Michigan delegation for their work to address this dangerous chemical.”


Stabenow, Peters, and Kildee have repeatedly pushed the Department of Defense (DOD) to address contamination in drinking water. Peters worked to include language to authorize a health study in the National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December 2017. Last month, the lawmakers joined a bipartisan group of members from the Michigan delegation and sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee and a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking for the study to be fully funded. In December 2017, the lawmakers also sent a letter encouraging a strong Environmental Protection Agency role to address water contamination across the state.  


PFAS chemicals were used for decades to make products resistant to oil and water. Now a growing number of communities across Michigan are uncovering alarmingly high levels of PFAS in soil, ground, and drinking water. For example, in the Belmont area, PFAS has leached into the water table from an old Wolverine Worldwide tannery dump. The company used the chemicals decades ago to waterproof the leather on shoes before improperly dumping the waste. Firefighting foam that contained some types of PFAS was also commonly used at military bases, exposing local residents and veterans living nearby.


These substances break down very slowly in the environment and remain in the blood and organs of exposed humans and wildlife for years. Exposure to these chemical compounds is linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, and reproductive problems. This problem is of such severity that the State of Michigan recently created a PFAS Action Response Team.