ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team has listed two new properties as areas of interest with confirmed PFAS contamination: one in Kent County and another in Muskegon County.
One is approximately 100 acres of vacant residential land near Rockford, listed as 5312 11 Mile Road. The property was one of more than 100 alleged disposal sites used by Wolverine World Wide. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy searched the property years ago and did not find any drums or evidence of solid waste.
However, a Baseline Environmental Assessment performed earlier this year sampled three wells on the site. There were no detectable levels of PFAS in the deepest well. However, samples from two shallow groundwater wells measured perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at 23 parts per trillion and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) at more than 100 ppt. The state’s current safety standard is 8 ppt for PFOA and 16 ppt for PFOS.
MPART says the groundwater likely flows west toward the Rogue River. The agency also confirmed that municipal water is available to residents to the west of the contaminated site, however many homes still operate on wells.
MPART plans to continue testing to measure whether the PFAS continues to move deeper and penetrates drinking water aquifers.
The second contamination site is the Bofors Nobel EPA Superfund site in Egelston Township. The 85-acre site was once home to Lomac, Inc., a chemical production facility. The company manufactured many alcohol-based detergents, pesticides and herbicides. Wastewater and sludge flowed into unlined lagoons for more than 10 years before finally stopping 1976.
Since the early 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency has operated a groundwater extraction system to pull contaminants out of the ground and prevent pollution from spreading into nearby Black Creek. However, the creek still consistently tests above safety standards for several pollutants.
According to MPART, groundwater from nine extraction wells and other surface water wells showed elevated levels of PFAS, including one with a PFOS level of 23 ppt.
Long-lasting PFAS chemical compounds have made headlines for years in West Michigan as more contamination sites are found, and scientists learn more about the health impacts of the chemical compounds. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a large group of compounds first developed in the 1940s and incorporated into all sorts of products for waterproofing and heat resistance. Decades later, research showed that PFAS compounds take a long time to break down organically and can build up in the human body, causing serious health problems including cancer.
EGLE hosted a public meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. regarding Wolverine World Wide’s draft Revised Tannery Interceptor System Response Activity Plan for the site near Rockford. Registration for the event and more information can be found on its website.