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PFAS

Downtown Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Kent County is adding two full-time health experts to help tackle issues of PFAS exposure and opioid addiction.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve hiring two full-time epidemiologists for the health department.

Teresa Branson, the county’s Deputy Health Officer, says the department was stretching itself thin dealing with these issues. But adding more staff is good for the department and county residents.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Two townships have joined the state’s lawsuit against a west Michigan shoe manufacturer.

Plainfield and Algoma townships are both being affected by ongoing groundwater contamination caused by chemicals Wolverine Worldwide once used at its tannery in Rockford.

Cameron Van Wyngarden, the Plainfield Township manager, says joining the lawsuit wasn’t his first choice.

John Westrock / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 


 

New information has come to light about the way the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality handled an important warning on possible toxic chemical contamination of groundwater in Belmont, in west Michigan. 

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A group of Oscoda residents is angry with the governor’s task force that responds to PFAS issues around the state.

The group Need Our Water – or NOW – spoke to the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) about the ongoing groundwater contamination there.

The chemicals known as PFAS were used in firefighting foam at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

BRYCE HUFFMAN / Michigan Radio

News that the state of Minnesota recently settled a lawsuit against 3M caught our eye. That's the company whose chemicals were used by Wolverine Worldwide to water-proof shoes – chemicals that have now contaminated drinking water in the Grand Rapids area.

The $850 million settlement was over water contamination from similar chemicals that are all part of a broader group called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin testing 1,300 public water supplies across the state for emerging contaminants known as PFAS.

The family of chemicals, which includes PFOA and PFOS, have been found at high levels in private drinking wells and some bodies of water around the state -- most notably at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and in northern Kent County. 

Susan Leeming, deputy director for the Office of External Relations with the DEQ, says the state will be selective in its testing.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State and federal officials say they expect to make headway this year on an underground chemical plume expanding from a former Air Force base.

The chemicals (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are linked to firefighter training on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The firefighters used the foaming chemicals to extinguish jet fuel fires starting in the 1960s. The base closed in the 1990s. But while Wurtsmith’s been closed for decades,  the chemical plume continues spreading through the groundwater into local wells and nearby open water.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

A Kent County woman believes groundwater contamination caused complications during her pregnancy, and that PFAS exposure may be to blame for the newborn's death.

Wolverine Worldwide is the shoe manufacturer believed to have contaminated groundwater near Rockford with PFAS. That's a family of chemicals often used to waterproof leather.

Ashlee Naffziger lived in Rockford for about 13 years before moving out of her mom’s house. She was on private well water during that time.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

People who live in Oscoda are concerned about foam containing toxic chemicals known as per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS – that keeps appearing on Van Etten Lake.

The serene lake in Northeast Michigan is surrounded by trees and houses. But it also has foamy stuff that looks like soap scum floating along its shores.

Residents are wondering why the state isn’t doing more about it.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Some Plainfield Township residents left the open forum to discuss municipal water with more questions than answers last night.

The community north of Grand Rapids is dealing with ongoing groundwater contamination.

The toxic chemicals known as PFAS are in the municipal water, but township officials say it tested below the EPA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

Residents were supposed to be allowed to speak to township officials one-on-one about their water and the township’s potential changes to the municipal system.

glass of water
Enid Martindale / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

 

PFAS is an acronym for a group of industrial chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. 

They've been used since the '50s, in everything from firefighting foam to fast-food paper wrappers to stain-resistant textiles and carpeting, waterproof shoes and boots, non-stick pots and pans, and more.

Ross and Donna Tingley
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

At least 14 communities in Michigan have water contaminated with a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

One of those sites, in West Michigan, has gotten a lot of attention recently. This month, the state abruptly announced a cleanup standard for PFAS.

But these chemicals have been a pollution problem in the state for years.

In Oscoda, some residents are wondering why remediation is taking so long.

Judge's gavel with books on a desk
Pixabay.com

The state has filed a lawsuit against the shoe company believed to have caused ongoing groundwater contamination in Kent County.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants Wolverine Worldwide to come up with a timeline for the remediation.

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Michigan has set new cleanup rules for chemicals that have contaminated drinking water sources all around the state. The chemicals in question are per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

They were used in firefighting foam and in a wide range of products, from fast-food paper wrappers to textiles and carpeting, pesticides, printing inks, and more. They have since been linked to some cancers and other health problems.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Residents in Kent County might have to wait a bit longer before they know all of the health effects of the chemicals in their groundwater.

A study about the effects of PFAS exposure is being delayed while Kent County officials get help from federal health experts.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

On Monday, environmental activist Erin Brockovich spoke at a west Michigan town hall.

She was there in support of a class-action lawsuit filed against three companies – 3M, Wolverine Worldwide, and Waste Management.

The suit accuses them of dumping toxic waste and polluting the groundwater in several areas of Kent County with a family of chemicals known as PFAS, which stands for per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Erin Brockovich speaking to West Michigan residents at town hall meeting
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich wants West Michigan residents to join a class action suit against shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide.

Brockovich held a town hall meeting Saturday to let residents know what work she has done and plans to do for them.

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