COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Target 8 test has found high levels of PFAS in the Kalamazoo River near Parchment, higher than levels reported in the PFAS-plagued Rogue River in Rockford.
The levels of the likely carcinogen are above the state limit for surface water and high enough to merit a health advisory for the river, though that’s a decision for health officials to make.
Kalamazoo County Health Department Director James Rutherford refused to discuss Target 8’s findings Wednesday other than to say the county is waiting for results from state tests.
Target 8 also tested the Ice Mountain bottled water being handed out to Parchment-area residents, who have been told not to drink their tap water after PFAS was found in the municipal system, but those tests came back negative for the chemical.
Target 8 tested for PFAS in Kalamazoo River surface water at D Avenue in Cooper Township. That’s about two miles downstream from Parchment’s contaminated wells, which in turn are just down from the suspected PFAS source — the former Crown Vantage paper mill and landfill.
The kits and instructions for the tests came from Trident Labs in Holland, one of two labs in the state that test for PFAS.
On Wednesday, Trident reported it found more than 21 parts per trillion of PFAS compounds in the river water: 15.83 ppt of PFOS and 5.38 ppt of PFOA.
That’s higher than the levels on the Rogue River in Rockford downstream from its PFAS source, shoemaker Wolverine Worldwide.
The state limit for surface water is 12 ppt because the chemicals accumulate in fish.
Already, state fish advisories warn against eating fish from the stretch of the Kalamazoo River in question, but that’s because of PCBs, not PFAS.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Scott Dean said the agency took 36 samples from the Kalamazoo River upstream and downstream from Parchment on Monday and Tuesday, including some in Parchment and near the former paper mill. The state is waiting for test results.
The DEQ found low levels of PFAS in the Kalamazoo River downstream from Allegan in 2013, Dean said.
Target 8 also tested two bottles of Ice Mountain, which is drawn from the ground near Evart. It’s the brand of bottled water being handed out in Parchment; 14,000 cases have been distributed so far.
Cooper Township resident Gary Burnhum got the bottles last week. Some viewers, including him, wondered if the bottled water was safe.
The bottles Target 8 tested came back clean, the lab reported.
“Big relief, especially when you find out your regular water you drank all your life is contaminated,” Burnhum said.
He learned on Wednesday that his private well has 148 ppt, a lot less than the more than 1,500 in one of Parchment’s municipal wells, but still more than double the standard for safe drinking. He’ll stick with bottles for now.