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Tag Archive | "PFAS"

City investigates PFAS at lagoon and discharge sites

By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs and EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy), are investigating why PFAS would be found at both the old lagoon site at the end of West Street, and the current wastewater discharge site south of Indian Lakes in Algoma Township.

According to Mike Womack, the Cedar Springs City Manager, the City of Cedar Springs undertook PFAS testing on its municipal water supply in 2017 and 2018 and testing found that the City’s water supply was “non-detect” for both PFOA and PFOS. “This testing helps City residents be sure that the City water that comes out of the tap in their homes has no PFOA or PFOS in the water,” he said. 

Subsequent to testing of the City’s municipal water supply, Womack said the City began working with EGLE (formerly known as MDEQ) to test the City’s current and former wastewater treatment locations for PFAS chemicals. Initial testing found that there were PFOA detections of between non-detection and 43 parts per trillion at those testing locations. At the time of that testing, all of those findings were below the 70 parts per trillion limitations imposed by both the Federal EPA and also the State MDEQ/EGLE. 

In August of 2020, the State of Michigan changed the permitted PFOA levels down to 8 parts per trillion, causing some of the City’s current and former wastewater treatment locations to potentially be in violation of the newly lowered limitations. Subsequent testing at some of those locations found their PFOA numbers to be reduced, including some reduced below the lowered State of Michigan limitations. 

The Lagoon site is the former location of the clean-water discharge from the City’s wastewater system. The Lagoon site was constructed in 1965 and was used to help clean and infiltrate wastewater before being released back into nature as clean water. The Lagoon system was removed from service in 1999 after all wastewater treatment was taken over by the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Womack said that the construction and operation of the Lagoon site, the monitoring and testing of the Lagoon site during operations, the closure of the Lagoon site and the monitoring and testing of the Lagoon site after closure has all been done in accordance with MDEQ/EGLE rules.

The “discharge site” is the current location that water from the City’s wastewater treatment plant is released back into nature after that water is cleaned, it is located approximately 1 mile south of the City. Womack said that the construction and opening of the wastewater treatment plant, the operations and testing of the wastewater treatment plant and the operations and testing of the wastewater plant’s discharge location have all been done in accordance with MDEQ/EGLE rules.

So why would PFAS chemicals be detected at these sites? “Both the Lagoon site and the discharge site have been used by dozens of businesses and hundreds of residential homes since 1965,” explained Womack. “Since these locations are the end location for the City’s wastewater/sewer system, the presence of any PFAS chemicals at these sites are potentially the result of one or more of the City’s sewer system’s users depositing PFAS chemicals into the sewer system at some point since 1965. It is also possible that PFAS chemicals were present at either or both of these locations prior to 1965 or that the PFAS chemicals have been transported to these sites from unknown off-site locations. Since testing is ongoing and the potential timeframe for contamination is so long, nobody is currently aware of the origination of the PFAS chemicals at these two locations.”

PFAS is widely found in things we use every day—personal care items, food wrappers, non-stick cookware, even in our blood. It can also be found in the biosolids that farmers use on their fields.

As the City of Cedar Springs and EGLE work to determine the nature, cause and potential extent of PFAS chemicals in and around these two locations, Womack said it is important to recognize that City water users are not in danger of any type of PFAS exposure from their water supply at this time. 

“There might be groundwater well users in or around the southwest part of the City that have the potential of being exposed to PFAS chemicals from their groundwater supply. The most recent testing available indicates that the discharge site location in Algoma Township is below current PFAS limitations. Property owners in both of those locations are encouraged to test their own ground water supply for PFAS chemicals on their own or if they receive a letter from the City of Cedar Springs, to participate in the City’s water testing program,” explained Womack.

He also explained that city residents may be responsible for current, future or ongoing cleanup and/or monitoring activities related to contamination found at those locations, because it is city property, even if they didn’t cause it. 

“Those potential cleanups and/or monitoring activities which EGLE may mandate, have the potential to be prohibitively expensive and might also require significant new ongoing costs indefinitely into the future,” said Womack. “There is no funding that the City is aware of to help pay for these mandates from EGLE or the State of Michigan. The lack of funding for these new EGLE and State of Michigan mandates means that the full cost of any cleanup or monitoring is likely to fall onto the shoulders of City of Cedar Springs citizens and property owners through increased utility rates or taxes.”

Womack noted that the City of Cedar Springs is concerned with the health and well-being of all citizens, both inside and outside of the City of Cedar Springs, and will continually work to protect the health and well-being of all citizens.

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Eligible residents encouraged to enroll in PFAS health study

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging residents in West Michigan communities to sign up for the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS) to help ensure robust data gathering and to make the study as successful as possible.

MDHHS launched MiPEHS in November 2020, with the goal of learning more about the relationship between PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and health among residents who have been exposed to various levels of PFAS in their drinking water.

People who enroll in the study complete a blood sample appointment at one of two local study offices: one near the City of Parchment and Cooper Township in Kalamazoo County and one in the Belmont and Rockford area of Kent County. Blood samples will be tested for PFAS levels and health markers, including cholesterol. Some participants will also have their blood tested for PCBs. A survey is used to collect additional information about health and exposure to PFAS.

Anyone in these areas who is interested in joining can call 855-322-3037 to confirm their eligibility and enroll. As of Feb. 24, 620 people have enrolled in MiPEHS.

“To make the study as successful as possible, MDHHS encourages residents to call to see if they are eligible and to enroll,” said Kory Groetsch, MDHHS environmental public health director. “The more people that join, the better the study can show how PFAS exposure affects health. Our study offices have implemented a number of COVID-19 precautions for the safety of staff and participants. Measuring the amount of PFAS in the blood of people living in these study areas is a time-sensitive task that cannot wait until the pandemic is over.”

Participants can receive their blood PFAS results for free and are offered up to $55 on a gift card as a thank you for their time. To allow for the most comprehensive analysis and to track PFAS levels over time, participants will be invited to return to the study offices twice more in the next five years. Additional gift cards will be offered at each visit.

For more information about MiPEHS please visit Michigan.gov/DEHbio. Call 855-322-3037 today to check eligibility and enroll.

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Reminder: Do not eat wildlife taken near Oscoda Township marsh due to PFAS contamination

Do Not Eat advisories in effect for deer, fish, other wildlife near Clark’s Marsh

With archery hunting season underway and the firearms season starting on Nov. 15, the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Natural Resources (DNR) are reminding hunters not to eat venison from deer taken within five miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township in Iosco County. A Do Not Eat deer advisory remains in effect due to evidence the deer may be contaminated with PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), a type of PFAS.

In addition, due to evidence that indicates Clark’s Marsh is highly contaminated with PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), MDHHS recommends a Do Not Eat advisory for all fish and wildlife taken for consumption from the marsh. This includes fish, aquatic and semi-aquatic mammals (including muskrats), amphibians (including frogs), mollusks (including snails), reptiles (including turtles) and arthropods (including crayfish).

“These advisories have been issued to protect Michiganders from PFAS as this chemical has been shown to cause damage to immune and reproductive systems, raise cholesterol levels and increase chances of cancers, such as kidney and testicular cancers,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.

Three separate health advisories have been issued in recent years for Clark’s Marsh: a Do Not Eat fish advisory in 2012, a Do Not Eat deer advisory in 2018 and updated in 2019, and a Do Not Eat resident aquatic and semi-aquatic wildlife advisory in 2019. All remain in effect today.

The health advisory for deer was issued in 2018 due to high levels of PFOS analyzed in the venison from one deer of several taken from the area near Clark’s Marsh, which borders the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. PFOS is the most common PFAS that bioaccumulates in fish and wild game.

In 2019, the geographic area covered by the deer advisory was updated using section boundaries instead of road boundaries, which more closely delineates a five-mile radius around Clark’s Marsh. DNR has estimated five miles to be the expected travel range of deer living in or near the marsh. Signs are posted to inform hunters of the advisory area.

An online map of the advisory area and answers to some frequently asked questions are currently available at Michigan.gov/PFASResponse under the Fish and Wildlife button.

Due to the potential health risk of eating a contaminated deer in this area, MDHHS advises that no deer that came from within five miles of Clark’s Marsh should be eaten. The advisory does not apply to cattle, chickens or other livestock raised in the area. In addition, MDHHS recommends no one eat organs from any fish, deer or other wild game in the state because many chemicals, including PFAS, can accumulate in their organs.

MDHHS and the DNR collected additional deer from the area in 2020. Statewide assessments of PFAS in other wildlife, such as turkey and waterfowl, are also being planned. Wildlife that has been exposed to PFAS may not show any signs of being ill. If you see a deer that appears to be sick, contact the DNR hotline at 800-292-7800.

If you have health questions about eating deer or other wildlife, or about the health risks associated with PFAS, contact MDHHS at 800-648-6942.

For more information about PFAS in wild game and fish, visit Michigan.gov/PFASResponse and select the Fish and Wildlife button. For more information about wild game consumption, visit Michigan.gov/EatSafeGame and select the Eat Safe Wild Game button.

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PFAS not detected in City of Cedar Springs water

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has begun a statewide initiative to test drinking water from all schools that use well water and community water supplies. The test is looking for a group of manmade chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). MDEQ is taking this precautionary step of testing these drinking water sources to determine if public health actions are needed.

The City of Cedar Springs tested its water earlier this year and PFAS was not detected. Not long after, it was tested again as part of the MDEQ initiative, and the results were the same—PFAS was not detected.

It is not uncommon to find low levels of PFAS in drinking water supplies, as PFAS can be found in fire-fighting foams, stain repellants, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food wrappers, and many other household products. They do not break down in the environment and move easily into water.

The City of Cedar Springs was tested by AECOM, MDEQ’s contractor. The results show that of the PFOA and PFOS tested,  none were found in the water. The level is below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lifetime health advisory (LHA) of 70 parts per trillion. 

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Tri County School tests positive for PFAS

Tri County County Area Schools received testing results from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last week that showed Tri County Middle School tested positive for PFAS.

According to Superintendent Allen Cumings, the Middle School tested at 62 parts per trillion (ppt), which is slightly below the EPA required limit of 70 ppt. Tri County High School was negative for PFAS, and the elementary schools are on municipal water, which is currently being tested.

“Tri County Area Schools is committed to providing our students, staff and community with quality drinking water,” said Superintendent Al Cumings. “We are working closely with MDEQ and are taking immediate steps to provide bottled water while investigating the source of the PFAS issue.

Cumings went on to say that even though the test results at the Tri County Middle School are below federal limits, the district is taking the following measures to ensure safe drinking water is available: 

1. Providing bottled water for drinking and meal preparation (immediately drinking fountains will not be available for use) 

2. Retaining an independent Environmental Engineering firm 

3. Working with the MDEQ to identify a plan with a timeline to address this issue 

4. Working with MDEQ to evaluate alternative water sources 

5. Cooperating with the MDEQ with regard to additional water testing and its investigation 

District officials noted that with safe drinking water an issue of concern across the state, they had been cooperating on an initiative with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to test drinking water from schools using well water and community water supplies. The initiative is designed to determine if public health action is needed.

The testing process identifies man-made chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Since PFAS break down slowly and move easily into water, it is not uncommon to find low levels of PFAS in drinking water. They are also found in stain repellants, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food wrappers, and other household products.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suggested limits for two PFAS in drinking water, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The EPA has not set health advisory levels for other PFAS compounds. All Tri County Area Schools are being tested by AECOM, the MDEQ’s contractor.

“We will keep our community updated as we work with MDEQ to resolve this issue. Look for a Frequently Asked Questions document soon to come,” said Superintendent Cumings. “The health and safety of our students and staff members remains our number one priority.”

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Health advisory issued regarding PFAS in foam on Rogue River

Photo of foam at Rogue River on April 6, 2018. Photo taken by AECOM during the sampling event.

by Judy Reed

An unusual foam has appeared on water bodies in Michigan located near known sources of PFAS, including the Rogue River near the Rockford dam. And if you are someone who likes to swim in or use the Rogue River for recreational purposes, you’ll want to make sure you don’t swallow that foam floating on the water.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHH) and Kent County Health Department (KCHD) issued a health advisory on Tuesday, June 5, with that warning after testing came back from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on June 4.

According to a report from the MDHH, surface water samples from the Rogue River and its tributary Rum Creek were collected in October 2017, and a sample of foam observed on the Rogue River near the Rockford Dam was collected in April 2018. Concentrations of PFAS in the foam were high relative to concentrations in the surface water.

Because of the amounts of PFAS found in that foam, MDHHS and KCHD have concluded that swallowing the foam may pose a human health risk. Therefore, the two agencies are advising people to take precautions against swallowing the foam while using the river recreationally.

The MDHHS advised that neither contact with skin, nor incidental ingestion of, PFAS-containing water during recreational activities in the Rogue River are expected to pose a risk to human health. It was mainly ingestion of the foam that posed the health risk.

The report noted there are other potential exposure pathways of PFAS near the Rogue River, including the consumption of locally-caught non-migratory fish or the drinking of water from wells that have an elevated concentration of PFAS. So avoiding contact with river foam alone may not ensure you won’t be exposed to PFAS.

The MDHHS has issued Eat Safe Fish guidelines for the Rogue River due to a variety of chemicals, including PFOS and mercury. See Michigan.gov/eatsafefish for more info on that.

In the meantime, the MDEQ will continue to monitor the foam on the Rogue River.



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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union


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