Toxic tap water probe: Wells positive near other dump site

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time, a likely carcinogen has been detected in private drinking wells near a former Wolverine Worldwide dump site outside Belmont, Target 8 has learned.

Tests paid for by residents in the Serenity Shores neighborhood, located north of 12 Mile Road NE near the White Pine Trail, found what are considered low levels of the PFAS chemical compounds once used by Wolverine Worldwide.

Residents said they decided to test their own wells after a Target 8 report last month on the old 12 Mile dump. A former truck driver told Target 8 investigators he dumped sludge there from the Rockford tannery in the late 1960s.

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

Neighbors told Target 8 at least four of the wells in Serenity Shores came back with PFAS, the chemical once used in Scotchgard. Wolverine Worldwide used Scotchgard to waterproof shoes.

Residents say the results range from 2.1 parts per trillion to 6.8 parts per trillion — far below the 70 ppt advisory level set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water.

Target 8 obtained one of the reports, which showed 2.1 ppt of perfluoroactanoic acid, or PFOA, which is part of the PFAS family of chemicals.

PFOS was the main ingredient in Scotchgard, while PFOA was listed as a key ingredient.

The findings are far below levels found in wells around Wolverine Worldwide’s former House Street NE dump site in Belmont; one of those wells tested at 38,000 ppt. But they are above the 1 ppt level that a Harvard University study says is unsafe for young children.

Serenity Shores neighbors said they are turning over their results to the Michigan Department of Envoironmental Quality. One neighbor said he plans to install a whole-house water filtration system for his home.

The results worry other residents who live along 12 Mile Road, including Seth and Laura Powell, who are raising their 2-year-old son next door to the old dump.

“It’s been about a month now since we watched your story break,” Seth Powell said Friday. “It was news to us that it was an old dump and it could be in our drinking water.”

The Powells said the DEQ tested their well Thursday and that Wolverine Worldwide provided them with water.

Friday, the DEQ confirmed it has tested a well on 12 Mile Road, along with three wells south of 14 Mile Road and Summit Avenue NE in Algoma Township, and six wells near the former northeast gravel pit, now home to the Boulder Creek golf course on Cannonsburg Road NE in Plainfield Township.

They are among 35 sites the DEQ and Wolverine Worldwide consultants are studying as possible former company dump sites.

The Powells now wonder if their water caused the complication that forced doctors to induce labor when their son Caleb was born.

“It’s kind of hard to gauge what’s safe and what’s not,” Laura Powell said.

They worry about Caleb now.

“He’s covered in water all summer long,” his dad said. “He loves it, screams for water, water.”

They’ve been told it will take at least four weeks to get test results.

“I’m uncomfortable with any level showing up in our test at all,” Laura Powell said. “I just want it clean. Zero means it’s clean, means it’s OK, it’s healthy, and you can sleep at night knowing nothing’s wrong with your water.”

Audra Moore, who lives across the street from the dump, wonders why it’s taking so long to get answers. She said the DEQ told her this week it plans to test her water soon.

“We should have results by now, but we don’t,” Moore said.

Her family has been using bottled water for several years.

“The water’s always been really yucky,” she said. “It’s got like a rotten egg smell to it.”

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: