PARCHMENT, Mich. (WOOD) — Two city commissions approved an agreement Monday that will allow Parchment to get its water from Kalamazoo, resolving the city’s PFAS crisis.
“We’re putting this on a fast track,” Kalamazoo Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain told 24 Hour News 8. “We’re calling this an interim solution right now. It may eventually become the permanent solution, but our primary goal is to get folks clean water right now.”
The Kalamazoo and Parchment commissions passed the agreement unanimously in separate meetings.
Under the deal, Parchment will source its water from Kalamazoo for a year. Kalamazoo will provide the water and the system hookup. Parchment will still rely on its existing infrastructure and be in charge of maintaining it.
Kalamazoo will charge Parchment a bulk rate based on usage that is expected to work out to around $37 per customer per quarter. Parchment will then bill its customers. Residents are expected to initially pay about the same as they do currently. Discussion about long-term rates will be ongoing and will be based in part on the amount of emergency funding the city receives.
The commissions’ votes were largely a formality. Work has been underway since last week to build a new water main under G Avenue that will connect the two cities’ water systems. That connection should be in place by Wednesday or Thursday, but Parchment residents still won’t be able to drink their water until tests for PFAS and other contaminants come back clean four days in a row.
Chamberlain said Parchment’s wells have been turned off and backflow preventers have been installed so the water flows only from Kalamazoo to Parchment, not the other way around.
While the agreement is temporary, Parchment Mayor Robert Britigan III agreed the Kalamazoo connection may be the only permanent solution.
“I see this as the most viable and cost-effective route to go, for sure in the short term and possibly in the long-term,” Britigan said.
However, one Parchment commissioner urged the city to examine all long-term options before settling on the hookup.
“I really want us as a commission, as a community, to look at a lot of different options as we go forward to try to solve this, and not just necessarily tell Kalamazoo, ‘Hey, we want to sign up for the next 10 years,’” Commissioner Doug Fooy said.
Officials announced late last month that tests had found high levels of PFAS, a likely carcinogen, in the Parchment municipal water system, which also serves Cooper Township. Residents have been told not to drink their tap water. Bottled water distribution will continue from noon to 8 p.m. through Friday at Parchment High School, where empty bottles can also be returned.
The source of the contamination has not yet been confirmed, but state officials suspect it’s the old Crown Vantage paper mill. The mill’s dump is near the well field from which Parchment draws its water. Testing there continues. Results haven’t yet come back due to a backup at labs.
At the Parchment meeting, state lawmakers, local officials and residents commended both city governments for coming together to quickly respond to people’s needs and reach a solution.
Anyone with questions about the contamination can call the Parchment Water Hotline at 269.373.5346 to talk to someone from the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department.