PFAS crisis spreads in Algoma Township


ALGOMA TOWNSHIP — Mary Gelderbloom wasn’t surprised when tests found high levels of PFAS, a likely carcinogen, in the well she’s used for 31 years.

Her level: 338.2 parts per trillion, five times the EPA advisory level for drinking water.

She lives in Algoma Township, west of U.S. 131, at 11 Mile Road and Jewell Avenue NE.

She wasn’t surprised, she said, because relatives who live nearby also had high readings, one of those 10 times the EPA’s limit.

But while Algoma Township already plans to provide city water to homes on the east side of U.S. 131, north of the 10 Mile Road Meijer store, there are no such plans for Gelderbloom’s side of the highway.

A new Michigan Department of Environmental Quality report shows 44 wells in Algoma Township — north of 10 Mile Road — with PFAS levels over the EPA limit.

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

It’s an area where Wolverine reportedly dumped PFAS-laden sludge from its Rockford tannery on farm fields decades ago for fertilizer.

In Belmont, near Wolverine’s old House Street dump where the PFAS crisis started, 30 homes are over the EPA level.

In Algoma Township, on the west side of US-131, some residents say the findings show a need for city water. Others want no part of it.

“I’ve been very, very healthy, very, very healthy, praise God,” Gelderbloom said. “Yep, very healthy.”

The 79-year-old says Wolverine already has installed a whole-house filter. On Wednesday, she said, the company and the EPA are supposed to return to make sure her filtered water is safe.

“They haven’t been wasting any time at all,” she said.

Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green said high PFAS levels in the more-populated area along Wolven Avenue, east of US-131, have accelerated plans to extend municipal water there. He said that could happen sometime in 2019.

But while he believes muncipal water is also the “best solution” for those on the other side of the highway, that could take much longer.

But Gelderbloom wants no part of that on her side of the highway.

“I still have a well,” she said. “I love my well. I have underground sprinkling system and guess what? I don’t have to pay for any water.”

Her neighbor across the street is still waiting for his test results, but is expecting the worst.

“We’re pretty confident; we’re surrounded by people who’ve had some pretty high numbers,” said Larry Earegood.

Earegood said city water is the only answer — for peace of mind and for property values.

“I don’t see how else you’re going to restore property values,” he said. “I don’t see how you’re going to guarantee growth. Who’s going to buy when there’s a high risk if I drop a well, I’m tapping into something I don’t want to be drinking?”

He was among Algoma Township residents who never thought it would reach them.

“Wolverine is kind of like in the position of the person that just rear-ended me,” Earegood said. “Obviously, they didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t have done it for anything in the world, but they did it. You’ve got to be responsible for 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: