PFAS above the EPA limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) was discovered at Robinson Elementary School in October. That prompted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health to investigate the source of the contamination and test 25 homes near the school.
Of all of the Robinson Township wells tested as of Nov. 27 — which includes the school, a nearby day care center and residences on 120th Avenue — PFAS has been detected in 14.
The EPA’s limit accounts for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which were detected in all 12 of those wells. PFOS and PFOA were not detected in 17 wells.
The DEQ plans to sample about 41 additional wells, according to a statement on the county health department’s website, and results are expected in 2-4 weeks.
“The MDEQ continues to evaluate potential sources of PFAS contamination in the area, including the use of firefighting foam, undocumented dump sites, potential biosolid application in the area and materials from a nearby highway construction project,” the statement reads.
The EPA limit was exceeded in two rounds of testing at Robinson Elementary School, which detected a combined 110 ppt on Oct. 29 and 199 ppt in a second round of testing two days later.
The DEQ is in the midst of a statewide study of the “forever chemicals” that are found throughout the environment and in common items such as water repellent materials, fast-food wrappers, nonstick cookware and Class B firefighting foam. Officials say Class B foam has never been used by the Robinson Township Fire Department.
PFAS chemicals have been linked in human studies to thyroid disease, elevated cholesterol, some forms of cancer and other diseases.
Robinson Elementary School switched to bottled water for drinking and cooking when PFAS was initially discovered there, while the remainder of school buildings in the Grand Haven district are connected to the Northwest Ottawa Water System (NOWS).
Trace levels (8 ppt) of PFAS were discovered through independent testing at the NOWS plant in Grand Haven in August, but subsequent testing by the DEQ in September found no trace of the substances.
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