PARCHMENT, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly a month after high PFAS levels forced 3,000 Parchment residents to stop using city water, a permanent solution is near.
But for those with contaminated wells in the area, a final fix could take up to two years.
That’s why on Monday, volunteers working with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 357 will start installing free kitchen sink filters at nearly 200 homes with wells — all east of the Kalamazoo River in Cooper Township.
The state, working with the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department, will pick up the cost of the systems, along with a year’s supply of filters.
“I don’t think that this would be something you would do for something permanent, for decades, but it’s definitely a good step in the right direction, will help them get to that next step,” said Local 357 Training Coordinator Bob Gulbranson.
The next step is to hook the homes to city water.
For some, county health officials said, that could take a year or two.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tests found on July 26 that Parchment’s city water had 1,300 parts per trillion and 1,400 ppt of PFAS, a likely carcinogen. Since then, residents have been drinking bottled water.
The state also has tested 196 private wells. Of the 126 tests completed, all had at least some PFAS, with a dozen above the 70 ppt EPA advisory level for safe drinking water.
While health officials say the new filters will take out most of the PFAS, they’re nothing like the whole house filters Wolverine Worldwide installed in Kent County after widespread contamination there.
Whole house filters cost up to $5,000 each, fill up part of a basement and clean the water as it enters the house. One resident named hers Megatron.
The Aquasanas 5300 being installed in Cooper Township costs less than $200 and will clean water only at the kitchen sink.
It’s one of three so-called point-of-use filters that the DEQ says is capable of cleaning PFAS.
“This will take out 96 percent of the PFAS,” Gulbranson said.
Some residents were skeptical.
“One day they’re telling us the filters won’t do it, then they turn around and tell us the filters will take out 90 percent,” said Lloyd Birch, whose well has 57 parts per trillion of PFAS.
However, he said it’s better than running out to pick up bottled water.
Cooper Township resident Rick Lynch, whose well has more PFAS than the EPA advisory level, would prefer Megatron — the Wolverine Worldwide solution.
“I think something like that would be a better solution,” Lynch said.
Longtime resident Hugh Chapman also has doubts about the “stop-gap” kitchen filters.
“The doubts being that the filter will work,” he said.
But he can’t believe anyone would be willing to pay for the alternative, Megatron.
“Who’s going to pay for it?” Chapman said. “The people that did the contamination? The DEQ? The state of Michigan? Who’s going to pay for it? That’s the question. The people who did that should be the ones who pay for it and they’re bankrupt.”
The DEQ has said it’s focusing 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, as a source of the PFAS.
As for Parchment’s municipal water, the three contaminated wells have been disconnected. Tests have shown the system, now connected to the city of Kalamazoo’s water supply, is nearly PFAS free.
Health officials said they’re nearing the “finish line,” and expect to give the water the all-clear soon. In the meantime, residents on city water should continue to drink bottled water, they said.