The Stream, January 14, 2020: Communities in West Michigan Reel from Long-Term PFAS Contamination

The Global Rundown

Communities in western Michigan grapple with years of exposure to PFAS contamination. Water is cut in communities near Manila, Philippines, as the Taal Volcano erupts. The Panama Canal drops the number of daily ship slots due to ongoing drought. The private water tanker industry booms in Nepal and other countries as rainfall and municipal water systems falter. Water levels in the U.S. Great Lakes are higher than this time last year, officials say. 

“I’m sitting here full of this stuff and not knowing what it’s going to do to me five years, 10 years from now. I lost my husband, my home is worth nothing. I couldn’t give it away this close to a toxic dump … or after they dumped toxic waste on my land.” –Sandy Wynn-Stelt, a resident of Belmont, Michigan, where PFAS dumped by the nearby Wolverine World Wide shoe company permeated groundwater. PFAS levels in Wynn-Stelt’s well measured as high as 90,000 parts per trillion (ppt), compared to a federal advisory level of 70 ppt, and PFAS levels in her blood spiked to 750 times the national average. Other residents of West Michigan, as well as communities elsewhere in the U.S., are battling similar PFAS contamination. The Guardian

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By The Numbers

24,000 People evacuated from around the Taal Volcano in the Philippines, which has been spewing ash for two days. Meteorologists warn that the volcano could erupt at any time, possibly triggering a tsunami near the capital city Manila. Towns near the volcano, which are being inundated by ash, are reporting power and water cuts. Reuters 

27 Daily slots currently available for passage through the Panama Canal, down from 32. Persistent drought conditions forced officials to temporarily lower the number of daily ship slots, effective this week. Reuters

Science, Studies, and Reports

The U.S. Great Lakes are higher than they were at this time last year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lakes reached several record-highs in 2019, and another potentially record-breaking year is expected in 2020. Detroit Free Press

On the Radar

A weeks-long water outage in Kathmandu, Nepal, recently sent private water tankers scrambling to meet community needs. The same situation is playing out across the world, from South Asia to the Middle East to Sub-Saharan Africa, as public water systems falter and private tankers are called in to bridge the gap. In many cases, however, the tankers charge steep prices, and in some places the industry is wrought with corruption. The New York Times

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