Toxic vapor tests lagging at thousands of sites around Michigan

A Sept. 13, 2017, photo shows the former Matrix Human Services Head Start business in the back of the old Lincoln Brass Works building in Detroit. State records show that nine months before the state’s environmental chief said old chemical vapors could be a serious public health threat, state officials were quietly beginning the first of seven evacuations around the state spurred by toxic fumes from lingering underground pollution. (Associated Press Photo)

STURGIS, Mich. (AP) — Health and environmental regulators across Michigan are playing catch-up with industrial chemicals that remain in the ground or water long after initially being discovered.

The state has a list of more than 3,000 vapor intrusion sites, according to The Detroit News . More than 40 percent are in metro Detroit.

Temporary abandonment of homes and properties for vapor intrusion can surprise some owners and tenants, who often don’t know they resided or worked near potentially dangerous pollution sites.

“Yes, there are thousands of sites, yet we can’t just snap our fingers and evaluate those thousands of sites,” said Michael McClellan, deputy director of environment for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Environmental officials say they’re fighting toxic vapors with not enough staff or funding. The DEQ hired another three people last year and paid for equipment and lab analysis with the $2.6 million it received from lawmakers to fight vapor intrusion.

Vapor intrusion is only a portion of the state’s environmental issues, which includes the emerging threat of perfluorinated chemical contamination, said Gov. Rick Snyder.

“You can’t do it all overnight,” Snyder said. The state is addressing “the most difficult and the most challenging situations first” before focusing on “a systematic way to take it one after another.”

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