NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — About 150 homes in Norton Shores will soon be connected to city water mains to avoid PFAS-tainted groundwater.
A firefighting foam that was used in training at the Muskegon County Airport contaminated groundwater in parts of the area. Now, a $5 million grant from the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will help pay to connect affected residents to the Muskegon city water system.
“We’re working with the state. We’d like to provide safe water to those homes that are currently on well water that are affected by or maybe affected by the plume that’s coming from the airport area,” James Murphy, the director of public works for Norton Shores.
In 2018, officials started testing the wells around the airport for PFAS, a man-made chemical that has been linked to certain cancers. Around the airport, its source was the special type of foam used in fighting airplane fires that federal guidelines required firefighters to train with regularly.
The PFAS levels detected in some of the wells exceeded the lifetime health advisory. Homes as far as 6 miles from the airport may have contaminated water.
The grant from EGLE will pay to connect about 157 homes to the city water system. Some people will be connected to upgraded water mains, while a new water main system will be installed east of the airport.
“We’re looking at constructing new water mains at Englewood (Avenue), Vick (Road), Bellway (Avenue) and Martin (Road),” Murphy explained. “The process right now is we need to see council approval to go for engineering services. Once we have engineering services on hand and evidently do design and work on getting those permits, we should be able to submit the permits to the state. Once we get approval on that, we will go out for bids and look at hiring a contractor to start the work.”
Once the homes in affected areas are connected to the city’s water mains, the existing residential wells will be closed.
“We’ve already reached out with an informal survey to (homeowners on) a couple of the roadways to let them know and also received phone calls and we’ve been in communication with them,” Murphy said. “One key part of the grant is that if you do hook up to the water main, or the one as part of the grant, you do need to abandon your residential irrigation wells. The cost, though, of the abandoned and water services to the homes will be covered under the grant.”
The goal is to have all the work completed before 2026.