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DEQ testing Grand River for PFAS chemicals near abandoned factory

Rachel Kramer
The Grand River in Lansing

Authorities are testing surface water from the Grand River after an abandoned plating facility in Jackson was found to have high levels of PFAS chemicals. Michner Plating joins the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's list of more thantwo dozen industrial sites with high levels of PFAS contamination.

Michner Plating shut down in 2007, and the property was acquired by Jackson County in 2015 through foreclosure. The EPA removed more than 1,000 abandoned containers of hazardous chemicals from the site. The containers were thought to hold chemicals such as cyanide, zinc cyanide, nickel chloride, chromic acid, and others.

During the plating process, PFAS chemicals were used to prevent exposure to other chemicals used in the process. That was before the hazards of PFAS chemicals were better understood. The groundwater later tested at levels more than one hundred times the EPA's health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFAS chemicals.

Because the plating facility was located on the banks of the Grand River, the DEQ is testing nearby waters, both upstream and downstream. Those test results are due next week.

Scott Dean is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

"That will help us understand if there's a PFAS impact on the Grand River associated with this abandoned plating facility," says Dean.

Right now, he says they don't believe Jackson's water supply or any other municipal water supplies are affected. Jackson and other nearby communities draw their drinking water from wells. Those systems tested at non-detectable levels for PFAS chemicals within the past six months.

Large municipal water systems on the Grand River downstream from Jackson like Lansing and East Lansing also rely on well water, and those systems, too, have tested at non-detectable levels for PFAS chemicals.

Dean says the nearest private well to the Michner Plating site is more than a mile and a half away from the site. Testing for private wells has not yet been carried out.

"The test results we get, hopefully some time next week, will dictate what the next steps of our investigation should be," says Dean. 

Catherine Shaffer joined Michigan Radio in 2014. She works in the newsroom and specializes in stories related to the life sciences, health, and technology. Catherine earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Michigan State University and a Master’s from University of Michigan. Prior to Michigan Radio, Catherine has worked as a freelance writer, mainly in focusing on biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, since 2001. She is also an award-winning fiction writer. When not at work, Catherine enjoys being in the outdoors and practicing yoga.