SPARTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Small amounts of PFAS have been found in the groundwater and surface water near a former landfill in Sparta Township.

The Sparta Foundry Waste Facility on Laubach Avenue operated from the early 1980s through 2021.

Because the landfill is not lined, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team said the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy requested a site analysis before the landfill was closed. The tests found that two groundwater wells showed levels of PFOA — perfluorooctanoic acid — at 10 parts per trillion, just above the current safety standard of 8 ppt.

(Courtesy Michigan PFAS Action Response Team)

Groundwater from the landfill flows east toward a small wetland. Storm water from the landfill also flows into the wetland from a culvert. A surface water sample collected next to the culvert outlet found PFOS at 13 ppt, just above the safety standard of 12 ppt.

MPART says the nearest drinking water wells are approximately a quarter mile to the east of the landfill. EGLE and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are working with local health officials to determine if those wells need to be tested.

PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — is a giant group of chemical compounds first developed in the 1940s and incorporated into all sorts of products for its waterproofing and heat-resistant properties. Decades later, research showed that PFAS compounds can build up in the human body, causing serious health problems including cancer. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily in the human body, though concentrations of PFAS within the body do start to go down once exposure ends.

Each type of PFAS breaks down differently and therefore dissipates at its own rate. Some forms, like PFOS — perfluorooctanesulfonic acid — takes an average of 5.5 years for half of the buildup to leave a person’s body. Another type, like PFBA — perfluorobutanoic acid — takes around 72 hours.