Community

PFAS-Related Chemicals Found At Former Dump Site In Ithaca

October 17, 2018

PFAS testing mapA map from the Mid-Michigan District Health Department showing the sites behind the Gratiot County Animal Control office at 2675 Washington Road in Ithaca where the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality drilled eight wells to test the water for PFAS-family-related chemicals.

Chemicals in the PFAS family have been found at the former site of a landfill in Ithaca.

Testing at eight sites around the landfill was done by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as part of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team. It was done to check for groundwater contamination because a former Wolverine Worldwide plant existed in Ithaca and may or may not have disposed of leather trash or scrap during its operation. The chemicals could have gotten into the ground water because rain falling onto the leather and scraps could have washed away the chemicals, driving it toward the ground.

A majority of the well sites drilled by DEQ from July 30 to Aug. 2 at the site, behind the Gratiot County Animal Control office at 2675 Washington Road, were found to have more than 70 parts per trillion for drinking water of manmade chemicals Perfluorooctanoic acid and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, both of which are in the family of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The 70 parts per trillion for drinking water is set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a lifetime healthy advisory level. Of the sites, three others had levels below 1.6 parts per trillion.

A single well, close to the dump site, had 7,300 parts per trillion, while four others had values in the hundreds, according to results provided by Marcus Cheatham, Mid-Michigan District Health Department Health Officer.

“Now we know there’s PFAS at the dump site. Now the question is did it travel to the drinking water wells of the homes?” he said.

This question is being answered by DEQ sampling of drinking water wells from 20 homes surrounding the dump site to make sure the chemicals did not penetrate a clay layer above the wells. If the chemicals penetrated the layer, they would get into the drinking water.

If PFAS levels are found above the federal limit, residents in the homes will be offered bottled water and water filters to have safe drinking water. Any pets, mainly cats, dogs and horses, should be given filtered water.

“If you have PFAS, there are things you can do about it,” he said.

The results from the DEQ’s testing of the wells will not be back for another three or four weeks, Cheatham said.

PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil and that have been used in many industrial applications such as carpeting, food paper wrappings and fire-fighting foams. They do not break down in the environment and accumulate in the body’s blood and organs, and links have been found in animals for increased cholesterol, changes in the body’s hormones and immune system, decreased fertility, and increased risk of certain cancers.

“PFAS does not cause acute illness. It causes chronic disease,” he said.

It also does not penetrate through the skin, Cheatham said.

Separate from dump site testing is statewide testing of all municipal and school water supplies.

Water supplies in Gratiot, Clare and Isabella counties’ municipalities have been tested but results have not been published yet, Cheatham said.

The health department’s role has been to communicate the issue with the public, he said. The DEQ also gave the health department grant money to purchase filters and bottled water, and to pay for staff time for outreach, Cheatham said.

Source: Morning Sun