Muskegon County Airport investigating PFAS firefighting foam

Target 8

NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD)  — The Muskegon County Airport is launching an investigation into its longtime use of PFAS-laced firefighting foam — the same kind of foam that’s been tied to contamination at military bases nationwide.

The move comes after Target 8 discovered the same foam was used for decades at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, raising fears of contamination.

On Friday, Target 8 reached out to airports across West Michigan, asking whether they’d used the AFFF firefighting foam. So far, only the Muskegon County Airport has responded.

The airport is surrounded by neighborhoods in Norton Shores and borders Mona Lake.

In an email response to Target 8, airport manager Jeffrey Tripp said he is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to check for possible contamination.

“We are working with DEQ to receive guidance on addressing this issue to include, if required, the installation of monitoring wells to determine if PFAS contamination exits,” Tripp said in the email. “Should PFAS contamination exist, we will coordinate the development and implementation of the appropriate remediation plan.

Tripp said the Norton Shores Fire Department had used the AFFF foam at the Muskegon County Airport since 1981, in response to aircraft emergencies and for testing and training.

Tripp said it wasn’t clear how much was used, but he called it a minimal amount.

Tripp said it appears the AFFF foam was allowed to drain into the ground. He said the airport has provided the DEQ a map showing the four sites where AFFF training may have been held at the airport.

“I must stress that at this time there is no indication contamination exists on airport property or the surrounding neighborhoods; however, we are fully committed to working with local, state and federal officials to investigate and remediate as necessary,” Tripp explained.

Target 8 also reached out to W. K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek and to Holland’s former Tulip City Airport, now known as West Michigan Regional Airport, but has not heard back.

In Kent County, three former Ford Airport fire chiefs previously told Target 8 that they used the AFFF foam extensively for decades and that it drained untreated into the ground. They called for testing of nearby wells.

The DEQ has asked the Ford Airport to investigate.

There are more than 400 homes downhill from the Ford Airport along the Thornapple River, most of which rely on well water.

Some residents near the airport told Target 8 they want their wells tested to determine if they are contaminated with PFAS, which is a likely carcinogen.

In northern Kent County, PFAS contamination attributed to Wolverine Worldwide has spread to an area six miles long by five miles wide. It has contaminated more than 500 wells, many of them at levels considered unsafe by the EPA and the state.

Earlier this week, the state fire marshal announced he was checking with departments around Michigan about their use of the toxic firefighting foam. He is surveying more than 1,000 fire departments about how they use and dispose of foam containing PFAS.

Officials are trying to determine how widely the toxic chemicals are used and develop statewide measures to prevent them from causing further pollution.

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