Health Dept: Watch out for toxic water test scams

Reports of scammers going to homes near where Wolverine Worldwide waste dumped

Belmont, Wolverine Worldwide, PFOS contamination
Water runs in the kitchen of a Belmont home where wells have been contaminated with a chemical called PFOS. (Oct. 12, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As testing continues of hundreds of wells in the Belmont area for contamination linked to decades-old shoe manufacturing waste, the Kent County Health Department is warning residents not to be taken in by scammers selling home water tests.

There have been reports of people have been knocking on doors and claiming to be with companies offering home testing for the chemical PFOS, the likely carcinogen causing concern. Kent County Health Department spokesman Steve Kelso says to be wary of those people and ask questions because they may be trying to rip you off.

“It’s pretty unlikely that someone’s going to come up and be able to perform this in your kitchen while you wait. In fact, that’s impossible,” Kelso said.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

For people who live near the long-closed Wolverine Worldwide dump site along House Street NE in Plainfield Township and several other dumps, getting clear answers about what is in their water is a constant priority. And last week, the MDEQ announced it is expanding the testing zone for PFOS.

“I can’t imagine living in a house for 20 years and showing up after work or whenever and having a couple people in my driveway and telling me something’s wrong with my water. First of all, that would be incredibly frightening and then to be told that I have to wait for this other company to come and test, we understand how people would be nervous and want to test their own water,” Kelso said.

But, he said, that’s not really a viable option.

“We actually don’t encourage people to test their own water for this substance because it is really easy to get wrong. This is an incredibly difficult test,” Kelso said.

Kelso said workers for the company contracted to conduct PFOS testing are operating under what’s called a “clean hands, dirty hands method.” They have to abstain from fast food and using certain cleaning products on their clothes for several days because gathering samples is such an exacting process.

Then, once the sample is collected, it must be kept at the same temperature and sent to a lab out of state. There are fewer than two dozen labs in the United States that can properly conduct testing for PFOS.

Kelso also says you can ask whoever’s at your door if the company’s testing process is certified to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 537, which is the protocol and guidelines for testing PFOS.

>>PDF: More tips to avoid getting scammed

>>App users: Interactive map of toxic tap water

RESOURCES FOR BELMONT RESIDENTS:

If you are eligible for a whole-house water filtration system from Wolverine Worldwide, you can call 616.866.5627 or email HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center can be reached at 1.800.662.9278.

Websites with additional information on the contamination: