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High PFAS levels found near Muskegon airport

Alexander Sinn • Nov 29, 2018 at 7:00 AM

NORTON SHORES — Testing for PFAS in Muskegon County has uncovered four residences in Norton Shores with levels well above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory.

The highest residential sample among the four contained 563.7 parts per trillion (ppt) of combined perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The EPA limit is 70 ppt.

All four homes are on well water. One of the homes is currently vacant, according to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Communications Director Scott Dean. Muskegon County has provided bottled water to the other three and is in the process of installing filters.

DEQ sampling in September detected 2 ppt of PFAS in Muskegon’s city water supply. 

The county has so far sampled about 48 residences, Dean said, and has received results for 23.

Three of the residences with high PFAS levels are on the 500 block of Porter Road, the 400 block of Wendover Boulevard and the 100 block of West Byron Road.

Sharon Polidan lives on West Lane, about two blocks from Wendover Boulevard. Her home is connected to Mona Shores municipal water, she said, which gets its water from the city of Muskegon. Polidan said she wasn’t aware that nearby residents used wells for anything other than watering their lawns.

Polidan said she has always considered her water safe, but has kept a close eye on PFAS in the news. She used to live in Kalamazoo and said she was stunned when samples of water from the nearby city of Parchment discovered PFAS levels in the thousands ppt. 

“When the government tries to deregulate everything so that a corporation that is polluting makes more profit, and they manage to hide so much evidence from the public, it could be a lot more severe than anybody knows,” she said.

Polidan lives near Mona Lake, where she said residents are conscientious of their impact on wetlands and wildlife. Residents with waterfront property have stopped using fertilizer with phosphorus to combat algal blooms, she said, and groundwater contamination may be alarming to them. 

PFAS refers to a group of chemical compounds linked in human studies to forms of cancer, thyroid disorders, elevated cholesterol and other disease. The chemicals are water and lipid resistant; are found throughout the environment; and are commonly used in firefighting foam, water-repellent materials, fast-food wrappers and non-stick cookware.

High PFAS levels were discovered in October at Robinson Elementary School in Robinson Township. Testing of the well water there found a combined PFOA and PFOS level of 110 ppt and 119 ppt in two rounds of sampling. 

A DEQ and Ottawa County Department of Public Health investigation is ongoing to find the source of the contamination in Robinson Township, and 25 residents are awaiting results of state testing. Results are expected in the next two weeks.

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