GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team has labeled four more contaminated action sites across the state, including three in West Michigan.
MPART reported Monday that the state is working on a cleanup plan for the former Menasha Paper Mill in Otsego and the nearby landfill on East River Street.
The site at 320 North Farmer Rd., now known as USG Otsego, operated as the Menasha Paper Mill from 1939 to August 2005. The landfill, which only received waste from the paper mill, closed in 1987. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy first started investigating the landfill for pollutants in 2018.
“Landfills and paper mills were identified as potential areas to investigate, as well as farm fields that received paper sludge as a soil amendment,” MPART said in a release. “EGLE conducted a multi-phase investigation which included collecting samples from landfill monitoring wells, residential drinking water wells and ponds near landfills.”
Preliminary testing done at the landfill found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) at 45.6 parts per trillion. The current safety standard in Michigan is 16 ppt. Eight monitoring wells were installed around the former landfill site in August 2020, returning one result of perfluorooctanic acid at 170 ppt, well above the state safety standard of 8 ppt.
Following testing at the former landfill, EGLE extended its investigation to the paper mill site. Much higher levels of PFAS contamination were found there: 723 ppt of PFOA and 511 ppt of PFOS.
Groundwater from both the paper mill site and the landfill flow south toward the Kalamazoo River which flows into Lake Michigan.
The city of Otsego runs on a municipal water system. Access to the system was extended in the 1970s because of contamination from the paper mill.
The third action site is the former Ionia City Landfill. The 20-acre property on Cleveland Street operated from the mid-1930s through the late 1960s, according to MPART. The property has been on the radar of environmental groups for decades. It was labeled a superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1983. Several drums of material were pulled from the site, which was later fenced and topped with a clay cap.
However, groundwater testing in 2022 found that an elevated level of PFOS — 37.6 ppt — was found on the site. The Grand River runs along the southern and western border of the property. MPART says groundwater flows southwest toward the river.
EGLE has worked with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local health officials to evaluate local drinking water wells. As of now, MPART says no residential well sampling is needed.
PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — is a large group of compounds first developed in the 1940s and incorporated into all sorts of products for waterproofing and heat resistance. Decades later, research showed that PFAS compounds take a long time to break down organically and can build up in the human body, causing serious health problems including cancer.