One of the best ways to find something? Actually start looking for it. News of PFAS contamination around manufacturing and military sites across the state have spread like wildfire, but this issue isn’t new. It’s just that we actually opened our eyes.

Businesses and government agencies have known about PFAS for decades, but with a long list of other environmental issues and what seems to be ever-shrinking interest from the federal government and little teeth at the state level, it was never a priority. And these chemicals should be a priority; they’ve been proven to cause cancer, low birth weight, and a number of other symptoms. It’s hard to tell what is more worrying, to be honest; how much these chemicals can affect our health, or just where these plumes will pop up next.

Of course, the first place to look is easy. Manufacturers, especially in nickel plating, have been identified as some of the top polluters, putting out levels of PFAS contamination that are not only illegal but astronomically above what has been determined to be safe. Many, including those listed in an in-depth mLive report, have been pumping out contaminated water for decades. This output doesn’t just affect the immediate communities, but tens of thousands of people further down the waterway. Especially in densely populated areas like southeast Michigan, these plants could be affected millions of families over forty or fifty years.

Even if state regulators act immediately, it could take month, years, or even decades to clean up waterways that have been exposed to that level of contamination. Exposure, even in lower quantities, could still be a real concern to public water municipalities for a decade or more. The cost of that exposure goes beyond the clean-up, too. The medical bill for exposed families is sure to be a massive challenge for legislatures and courts to tackle if they plan to hold private firms responsible.

We need to keep a very careful eye on the PFAS report and ensure that these businesses are held accountable for their pollution. Make sure you’re in contact with your state representative and ask how they’ll vote as Michigan tackles water pollution and allocation in the year ahead.

PFAS In Michigan: Who’s Contaminating Our Water was originally published in Less Cancer Journal on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.