New task force to coordinate PFAS response in MI

Likely carcinogen found in drinking water wells in Belmont area

plainfield township, wolverine worldwide, contaminated water
A well in Belmont that was contaminated, likely by chemicals from an old Wolverine Worldwide dump site. (Sept. 26, 2017)

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Rick Snyder is launching a task force to organize the response to the likely carcinogen found in wells in Belmont and elsewhere in Michigan.

Snyder signed an executive directive Monday creating the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team. Its goal is to “ensure a comprehensive, cohesive and timely response to the continued mitigation” of the chemical, a Monday release said. MPART will coordinate work by local, state and federal officials.

“To safeguard Michiganders from this emerging contaminant, it’s critical that responding agencies at all levels are effectively communicating and coordinating efforts,” Snyder said in a statement. “This team will be instrumental in establishing protocols and best practices that will allow all partners to comprehensively address these contaminants across Michigan.”

>>PDF: Executive directive creating MPART

The task force will be headed up by retired Michigan Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Issacs, who was also previously a critical care nurse. Dr. David Savitz, who is a professor of epidemiology at Brown University in Rhode Island, will be the academic consultant. Members of the team will come from the state Departments of Environmental Quality; Health and Human Services; Military and Veterans Affairs; and Agriculture and Rural Development.

>>Online: MPART webpage

PFAS used to be found in the Scotchgard that Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide used to waterproof shoes. Wolverine waste was dumped along House Street NE in Plainfield Township, and it’s now blamed for contaminating wells over a mile away. The DEQ is looking into reports of dozens of locations in Kent County where Wolverine waste may have been dumped. Cleanup of sites along House Street continues.

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

The chemical was also found in other products, like firefighting foams and cleaning products, as well as food packaging. The state says PFAS have been detected at a number of other locations in Michigan, including at former and current military bases, water treatment facilities and bodies of water. The Monday release said Snyder has been in contact with national military leaders about the response on and around bases.

SENATOR WANTS STATE MONEY FOR TESTING

The state senator who represents the area of Kent County impacted by the PFAS contamination says he wants lawmakers to step up with regards to funding testing and monitoring of wells.

“I sent a letter to the governor looking for resources. Now, to be perfectly honest, it was resources for my district,” Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, said. “…What people want is accurate and timely information. We need that for our citizens. Why not purchase, appropriate the money to purchase, some of this equipment that we can test so we don’t have to wait six weeks, four to six weeks, to get the test back? This is something that I think is very, very important not only to our citizens to know if they have an issue, and then we also need to start figure out where these plumes of water are.”

He said testing and monitoring of wells will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and it will cost money — likely in the tens of millions to begin with.

Wolverine Worldwide is already paying for well testing, providing homes with bottled water, and covering the cost of whole-house water filtration systems for hundreds of homes. But the tests have to be sent to an out-of-state lab and results can take weeks.

So far, there has been no indication of the kind of appropriation MacGregor wants, but the creation of the task force could be a signal that cash could be flowing out of Lansing sooner rather than later.

–24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.

>>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: