State to test more wells for PFAS after Ford Airport refuses

Target 8

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The state will test wells for PFAS at homes near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport after the airport refused to expand its own testing for the likely carcinogen, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman said.

The state plans to test drinking wells of about 49 homes in the area of Trout Creek, which runs off the airport property and empties into the Thornapple River.

The homes are in a neighborhood east of the 36th Street SE exit ramps from I-96 and west of Tricklewood Drive SE.

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The Ford and the state started investigating after former airport fire chiefs told Target 8 about extensive use of PFAS firefighting foam over the decades – a common practice at airports.

The airport is uphill from not only the Thornapple River, but from a neighborhood of about 400 homes with well water.

Tests paid for by some homeowners found low to moderate levels of PFAS in their wells.

Gordon Water Systems told Target 8 in April that it found PFAS in two wells in the neighborhood.

The highest PFAS level was found nearest the airport. A test result provided by Gordon showed that well with 36.6 parts per trillion of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, one of the two most-studied PFAS compounds. The test also found 15.5 ppt of another, less-studied compound known as perfluoroheptanoic acid or PFHpA.

The state limit for drinking water is 70 ppt.

But the airport announced in September that its tests of 28 nearby private wells found the water was safe. The airport refused to say where it tested.

The airport said its consultant found none of the two most widely studied PFAS compounds, though it found low levels of other compounds in one well.

The Kent County Health Department applauded the airport’s testing and said it showed no need for more tests.

But DEQ spokesman Scott Dean said the state wanted more testing. He said the airport refused the DEQ’s request to test wells along Trout Creek, which is why the state will pay for it.

It’s not clear how long it will take to get results, or how much this is costing the state.

The state plans to mail notices to property owners on March 22 to set up a sampling appointment. They say residents who don’t get letters but believe they should be tested can contact the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division’s project manager Aaron Assmann at assmanna@michigan.gov or 616.430.5275.

A spokesperson for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport provided the following statement on Tuesday: 

“We understand that MDEQ is taking what it believes to be appropriate action for assessing potential PFAS risk due to non-Airport sources it has identified near Cascade Township.  The Airport continues its ongoing collaboration with the DEQ and its own step-wise investigation, that previously included residential wells in Cascade Township.  MDEQ’s new project is consistent with the evolving conversations about PFAS and their potential impacts in our state and beyond.” 

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