EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A town hall meeting Thursday revealed that state investigators are finding more PFAS, a likely carcinogen, in Kent County groundwater.
State Sen. Winnie Brinks’ office organized the meeting at the East Grand Rapids Community Center to update the public on the state’s PFAS investigations near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and elsewhere in Cascade Township.
A panel of representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (the new state environmental agency) shared updates and fielded questions from the public.
“The update is that we did indeed find some lower levels of PFAS in the groundwater,” said Abigail Hendershott, the Grand Rapids district supervisor for EGLE.
Mike Rooze attended the meeting, telling 24 Hour News 8 that he built his house in Cascade Township in 1978. He explained that he saw unfamiliar foam on the Thornapple River decades ago when he and his daughters went waterskiing. He claims he expressed concern to township officials.
“They said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s detergent,'” Rooze explained. “A lot of people have drain fields on the river and soap residue’s getting in the water and that’s what they told me it was.”
That foam was later found to be the result of PFAS and authorities have told people not to touch it.
Sen. Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, told 24 Hour News 8 that she has been pushing for stronger drinking water standards. She believes Michigan can be a leader in PFAS safety.
“Michigan is defined by its water,” Brinks said. “Our geography, our economy, our way of life. So it’s really important to me to make sure we’re doing everything we can.”
Brinks said that continuing progress on finding and cleaning up the contaminant means taking proactive rather than reactive measures.
“We need to make sure that we’re protecting people from contaminants in their water and until we have incredibly (low) levels or no levels and that people are drinking safe water, we need to keep talking about it,” she said.
The panel of environmental experts told the crowd of a couple dozen people that investigations around the former Lacks Industries manufacturing site and Ford Airport are ongoing. There were no major updates regarding findings along the Thornapple River, though some residents have received water filters after finding traces of PFAS in the groundwater.
“There’s a pretty dramatic shift between what’s on site up on the west side of (I-)96 to what’s on the east side and so that complexity in the geology makes this investigation more difficult,” Hendershott said.
She said careful research takes time and that means remediation plans may not be in the works for a while.
MDHHS announced Wednesday that participants in its Northern Kent County PFAS blood study started getting results back. Those results likely won’t confirm future health issues, but officials say they could play a huge role in understanding PFAS effects as it relates to drinking water exposure.