Kent County

EPA launches investigation in Kent Co.

Ken Kolker -

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday launched its investigation into the Wolverine Worldwide PFAS crisis that has spread through parts of northern Kent County.

Two teams of EPA scientists, one from Chicago, arrived in West Michigan Tuesday and started testing wells Wednesday at homes already identified as contaminated with the likely carcinogen.

"We keep apologizing," said Chicago-based EPA biologist Peg Donnelly, who is leading one of the teams. "We're here in the middle of the holidays, a busy time of year, but people understand we're just trying to get some more information so we can figure what to do."

They are working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Wolverine Worldwide's consultants.

One of their first stops was the home of Mary Gelderbloom on 11 Mile Road and Jewell Avenue NE in Algoma Township, whose well already tested five times over the EPA's advisory level for drinking water of 70 parts per trillion for PFAS.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

One of the three-member EPA teams tested the water coming in straight from Gelderbloom's well.

They also tested her water after it ran through a series of recently installed filters, including four carbon filters, to make sure they were working.

Earlier tests by Wolverine's consultants found 338.2 parts per trillion in her well, before the filters were installed.

This all started around Wolverine's former House Street dump in Belmont, where the company dumped PFAS-laden sludge from its now-closed tannery decades ago.

So far, 74 homes in Belmont and Algoma Township have tested over the EPA level.

In Algoma Township, it's believed the contamination came from farm fields that used Wolverine sludge for fertilizer decades ago.

Some state legislators and the Kent County Health Department had asked for the EPA's help as the crisis has spread.

On Wednesday, the two EPA teams planned to test wells at 17 homes.

"We're just doing monitoring so we can compare numbers," Donnelly said. "We're helping DEQ. The Michigan DEQ is really in charge of all the Wolverine activities that are going on, but EPA wants some additional data."

Part of it is to make sure testing methods are consistent, she said.

So far, the homes they've checked all had whole-house filters, paid for by Wolverine.

"They've paid for all these systems to go in," Donnelly said. "The residents have been pleased that they've gotten bottled drinking water and are getting their sample results and communication."

After less than an hour at the home in Algoma Township, the scientists were done.

Donnelly said the EPA will send the samples to its lab in Chicago and another lab on the East Coast. She expects preliminary results in five days, but said residents should expect final results in the mail in a month.

RESOURCES FOR BELMONT RESIDENTS:

If you are eligible for a whole-house water filtration system from Wolverine Worldwide, you can call 616.866.5627 or email HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center can be reached at 1.800.662.9278.

Websites with additional information on the contamination:


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