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'We’re confident that it’s not going to be a problem'

Alex Doty • Feb 8, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The safety of drinking water has been a hot topic lately in West Michigan.

“Many West Michigan groundwater drinking supplies have been tainted and are in the news daily,” said Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis.

An investigation began last year in the Rockford area after it was discovered that there were contaminated wells near Wolverine World Wide’s old sludge waste dump, The Associated Press reported. The AP reported that the contamination has since spread to Algoma Township and Rockford, and the Rogue River has also tested positive for perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFASs have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.

One class-action lawsuit and more than 50 individual health and property value claims have been filed against Wolverine so far in both state and federal courts, The AP said.

Given the proximity of these incidents — and our area’s own abundance of water — are we susceptible to similar contamination?

“To the best of our knowledge, it is not in our water,” McGinnis said. “We’re confident that it’s not going to be a problem, but we are aware of it.”

This sentiment was echoed by Joe VanderStel, water facilities manager for the City of Grand Haven.

“We’re just not susceptible to those things,” he said.

VanderStel noted that the city’s water supply is different from the areas affected by the Wolverine contamination, since Grand Haven’s water comes from Lake Michigan and isn’t drawn from the ground.

“We don’t use groundwater, for one thing, so it is not encapsulated,” he explained. “Ours is free-flowing surface water.”

VanderStel also noted that the flow of such a high volume of water into an even larger body could also work to prevent high concentrations of chemicals from entering the local water supply.

The most recent testing done in 2014-15 confirms that fact, he said, as all compounds tested came up “not detected.”

“We will continue to monitor and to prevent any possibility of contamination,” McGinnis added.

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