Public meeting will be held at Kirtland Community College to update residents about status of contaminated drinking water
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Will Grayling area residents get solutions to clean up tainted drinking water by a firefighting foam used by the military? Or will they hear much of the same from state officials that more monitoring wells will be drilled and more data will be collected to determine the extent of the tainted ground water in the area?
Those questions will be on the minds of area residents as they attend a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Kirtland Community College Health Science Community Room, located at 4800 W. 4 Mile Road, Grayling.
In 2016, the National Guard Bureau issued a directive to identify water sources at every training facility, camp, fort, and armory. The order also included every installation which had an airfield where fire crash training occurred, or where fires occurred with the use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).
Water samples taken at the Grayling Army Airfield, where the foam was used for training purposes, tested positive for the chemicals in the fall of 2016.
Between 2013 and 2015, federal officials mandated that every municipal drinking water system in the nation be tested for Perfluorinated compounds – PFCs or PFAS.
There are just over a dozen PFCs which were in common use, including Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory for acceptable levels of just those two compounds is 70 parts per trillion.
The firefighting foam used in the training contained the chemicals.
As of mid-September, 666 private wells near the Grayling Army Airfield have been tested for PFOA/PFOS. Sixteen samples tested above Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MEDQ) criteria of 70 parts per trillion. A total of 230 samples had concentrations that ranged between non-detect and 694.2 parts per trillion.
During the same time frame, 438 private wells in Lake Margrethe area have been tested for PFOA/PFOS. Two samples above MDEQ criteria, while 60 samples had concentrations which ranged between non-detect and 75.4 parts per trillion.
The MDEQ tested lake foam, lake water, a hand pump, and a residential well on Lake Margrethe for PFOS/PFOA. The results found elevated levels of PFOA in some of the lake foam samples, and trace amounts of other PFAS in lake water samples and the private well.
As a precaution, District Health Department #10 recommends that swallowing foam or lake water be avoided. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued Eat Safe Fish guidelines for fish caught from Lake Margrethe and the AuSable River upstream of the Mio Dam as they relate to PFOS, mercury, and more.
Elsewhere, groundwater samples were recently collected from 12 monitoring wells at Maneuver and Training Equipment Site /Range 30, located off of North Down River Road. One of those 12 groundwater samples collected at the MATES facility contained a combined concentration of PFOA plus PFOS greater than 70 parts per trillion.
The Michigan Department of Military Affairs (DMVA) is currently requesting the permission of residents in this immediate area to collect a sample from their drinking water well. Written permission to sample drinking water must be received and processed before the sample can be collected. Sampling was scheduled to begin the this month. Officials expect analytical results near the end of December.
Residents whose wells tested between two parts per trillion, the lowest level which lab technicians can detect, and 70 parts per trillion were given free water filters from the state. The filters remove the compounds from the water.
PFCs were commonly used in food packing, such as fast food wrappers and pizza boxes, and for stain-resistant coating for carpets, upholstery, and fabrics. It was also in water-resistant clothing, cleaning products, and personal care products.
In 2011, following seven years of studies, results were released from a study of thousands of people who live in the Ohio River Valley who were tested for PFC exposure as a result of a class action lawsuit. Six health outcomes of those people studied included increased cholesterol, Ulcerative colitis, Preeclampsia, higher thyroid function, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer. In addition, children exposed to PFCs had lower immunity after receiving some vaccinations, which required some booster vaccinations.
Residents who recently received PFAS test results are welcome to come to the public meeting between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to ask questions. The following organizations will be available to answer questions: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) District Health Department #10 (DHD#10) Michigan Department of Military Veterans Affairs (MDMVA) Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).