Officials: PFAS testing near BC base a precaution

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — About 50 people who live within a mile of the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base have received letters from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, saying the state agency wants to test their drinking water.

“Right now, we’re looking at the private drinking water wells that are around here,” Kevin Green, the environmental health manager for the Calhoun County Health Department, said. “There is municipal water in that general area, but we’re looking at when that came in people were not required to hook up, so there’s still some homes that have private drinking water wells, and those are the ones that we’re concentrating on because we don’t know if it’s out there or not.”

The move comes as the U.S. Air Force investigates whether firefighting foam used at the base contaminated drinking water on base and in surrounding neighborhoods.

“PFAS was a compound that was used in AFFF, aqueous firefighting foam, and that was a substance that the Air Force used between 1970 and 2015 to save personnel and property in fire protection services,” 1st Lt. Andrew Layton with the 110th Attack Wing explained to 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

That means anyone who used a water well for drinking water during those years could have been exposed to PFAS, a likely carcinogen.

“At this point, there’s no cause for public concern because this is purely a precautionary test,” Layton said. “A big philosophy behind this has been how would we handle this if there was a potential for contamination in our own well at home?”

Green says the DEQ will begin testing once homeowners mail back consent forms. The Air Force plans to begin its own testing of groundwater and soil Monday.  

“For right now, we just don’t know what’s out there, so that’s why they want to do the testing,” Green explained.

The firefighting foam has caused PFAS contamination near the Wurtsmith Air Force Base on the east side of Michigan, near Lake Huron.

AFFF was also used at four other West Michigan airports: Gerald R. Ford International Airport, the Muskegon County Airport, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport and W.K. Kellogg Airport.

PFAS is the same chemical that has been found in residential wells in the Rockford area. The source there is waste dumped decades ago by shoemaker Wolverine Worldwide.

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