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Health, Science and Environment

State officials say they have conducted the largest PFAs foam collection program in the nation

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State officials say a PFAs foam collection program has brought in nearly 15,000 more gallons of firefighting foam than expected.

Last year, Michigan began a $1.4-million collection program to dispose of firefighting foams that contain Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs.

PFAs are a family of chemicals found in drinking water across the state and linked to health problems including cancer.

Scott Dean is with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. He said the state offered to help fire departments and airports carrying the toxic foams dispose of them.

“We believe that Michigan has succeeded in what is likely the nation’s largest collection and disposal program of PFAs firefighting foam.”

When the program launched it planned to bring in some 37,000 gallons of firefighting foam but over the course of ten months has instead brought in over 51,000 gallons.

Dean said the program was voluntary. He said commercial airports are still required to carry PFAs firefighting foams.

And he said, alternatives exist and pose less of a risk to public health.

“We just learned that there were a lot of fire departments that didn’t have a use for this foam,” Dean said. “Many had acquired it as a surplus product from an industry that may have closed down and used it for their fire suppression equipment.”

The foams are sent to a hazardous waste disposal site in Idaho, according to Dean.

“Other states are already reaching out to Michigan to learn about our effort,” he said. “We would urge the EPA, US Department of Defense, and FAA to look at this model as a way to reduce PFAs contamination nationwide.”