The May 2015 report showed elevated levels of PFCs in the Flint River — including PFOA, also known as C8, the chemical that spread into drinking water around a DuPont plant in West Virginia and led to a landmark class-action lawsuit. In addition to C8 and PFOS, a similar molecule that’s also based on a chain of eight carbon atoms, scientists found 11 other PFCs in the Flint River — more than in any of the other water sources tested around the state.
In 2014, in an effort to save money, Flint switched the source of its drinking water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a change that resulted in residents being exposed to lead levels high enough to cause irreversible brain damage in children.
The Michigan report was based on tests of surface water and fish for PFCs in 13 sites around the state. According to Jennifer Eisner, a public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the report was not designed to evaluate drinking water. Eisner referred questions about the dangers the PFCs posed to people drinking water from the Flint River to the Department of Environmental Quality, which did not return our phone calls.
Michigan’s testing revealed PFOS in the Flint River at levels that exceeded the state’s limits for both non-drinking water and drinking water. The scientists found C8 in 12 of the 13 bodies of water tested, though at levels below the official cutoff for concern. Michigan has not set safety levels for the other 11 PFCs.
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