PFAS unknowns frustrate Richland-area residents

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

RICHLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly 200 worried residents attended a meeting in Richland Wednesday, demanding that the state provide answers about PFAS contamination linked to plastics plant that closed decades ago.

Tests found PFAS in several drinking water wells near the site of Production Plated Plastics, which closed in the early 1990s, on 34th Street near M-89 in Richland Township.

Officials have known the groundwater around the fenced-off site is contaminated for a while, but the PFAS was discovered only recently. They still don’t know how far the PFAS may have spread.

“I have great amounts of anxiety,” Amy Schwartz, whose home is inside an area near the site that is being tested for PFAS, said in an impassioned statement at the Wednesday meeting at Living Hope Community Church. “This is my children. It’s bad enough that it’s me, but it’s my children.”

Others at the meeting were worried about bathing in the water or drinking it while breastfeeding.

PFAS has been associated with a number of health problems, including with the kidneys and thyroid and some cancers, but the science is young and the chemical’s exact effects still aren’t known.

In an initial testing phase that covered 11 wells within a mile of the former plant, PFAS levels around 1,000 parts per trillion were found in five wells, state officials said. The state standard for drinking water is 70 ppt.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is now conducting a second round of testing involving more than 20 homes farther from the plant to see if the contamination has spread.

“We take the residential wells very seriously,” MDEQ spokesman Scott Dean told 24 Hour News 8. “So we’re going to continue to broaden this out until we’re sure we know the extent of this contamination.”

State officials said they expect results from the second round of testing in about three weeks.

The DEQ is communicating with residents about PFAS concerns online and promises to alert those who may be contaminated directly.

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