PARCHMENT, Mich. (WOOD) — The state is focusing on a long-closed paper mill and its neighboring dump site as a possible source for PFAS that has shut down an entire community’s water, sources told 24 Hour News 8.
The focus is on the long-shuttered Crown Vantage paper mill on the northern edge of Parchment, and on the dump, just to the north in Cooper Township.
Parchment’s wells contaminated by the likely carcinogen are less than a mile downstream from the old mill and dump on the Kalamazoo River.
More than 3,000 people are on bottled water in the Parchment area after high levels of the likely carcinogen was discovered last week in the city’s water supply.
Larry Fike worked at Crown Vantage paper mill along the Kalamazoo River until it closed in 2000.
“I was one of the last ones out, worked there for 35 years,” Fike said. His dad and uncle worked there, too.
They made wax paper for cooking, stationery, at one time Christmas wrapping paper, but the former worker said he’d never heard of PFAS.
“The water that came out of there was nasty and where did it go? I don’t know. I never knew where it went,” Fike said.
Crown Vantage thrived for decades, one of several paper mills in Parchment.
But it’s now abandoned, owned by River Reach Partners LCC of Colorado. Plans for a development there have stalled.
“When this came up, I thought I don’t know maybe it was the mill,” Fike said.
State officials have identified paper mills as a possible source of PFAS, which was used in production.
Cooper Township Jeffrey R. Sorensen confirmed the state is testing monitoring wells near the old mill for PFAS.
The old mill is less than a mile upriver from Parchment’s contaminated wells.
Then, there’s the paper mill dump between Crown Vantage and the wells. The 82-acre dump site is owned by Cooper Township.
Fike, the former paper mill worker, has lived most of his life next to the dump. He used to be able to see the Kalamazoo River from his home, but now hills made of paper sludge block the view.
“It was more of a sludge pulp type stuff that went in there,” he said.
Neighbors said it hasn’t been used as a dump for at least 20 years.
“It used to smell really bad, smell like rotten eggs, stink really bad all through the summers,” said Garry Burnham, who has lived next to the dump for 57 years. “Every time they’d dump it’d smell.”
Now, he and other neighbors are drinking bottled water, and waiting for answers.
“I have to open so many bottles of water during the day,” Burnham said. “It takes me four bottles of water just to fill the coffee pot; four for the dog’s dish in the morning; two for the cat; hard telling how many the kids around here are going to drink.”