SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — The northwest Kent County village of Sparta has stopped using one of the wells that feeds its municipal water system after tests found it contained a small amount of a chemical linked to a toxic tap water crisis in nearby townships.
The village said tests from Dec. 28 that came back Thursday found Well #2 had about 3.3 parts per trillion PFBS, a member of the PFAS family of chemicals. That’s well below the federal advisory limit and recently-set state standard for PFAS of 70 ppt.
>>PDF: Test results overview
The positive result came during the village’s second round of testing. The first round of testing didn’t find any of the chemical in the water. Water that comes out of residents’ taps is treated; the water tested was raw from the well before treatment.
The village decided to take Well #2 offline until it learns more from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about what the results mean for water quality.
“We’re waiting until the DEQ can provide some guidance,” Village Manager Julius Suchy said. “They’re going to start talking to their toxicity people and do what they need to do to determine what is PFBS and what are they comfortable with. It will be a similar process that they followed for PFOS and PFOA that they just came out with — the 70 ppt.”
“We are looking forward to continue to coordinate at all levels of government to ensure that we’re mitigating any potential risk to public health, and that we all understand and are on the same page, and to make the sure the proper next steps to ensure that residents’ drinking water is safe moving forward,” DEQ representative Melanie Brown told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone.
The Sparta system is still pulling water from its three other wells — #3, #4 and #5 — which were not found to contain any chemicals in either round of testing.
The village says it’s keeping an eye on the water system. It says it will provide updates on its website as it learns more from the DEQ.
“We want to do our due diligence and make sure that we can tell people yes or no, either it is in the water or isn’t,” Suchy told 24 Hour News 8.
Sparta tested the wells after residents expressed concerns about PFAS, a likely carcinogen also linked to other illnesses. Dozens of residential wells in nearby Plainfield and Algoma townships have been found to have PFAS levels above 70 ppt — some much higher.
No nearby municipal water systems have been found to contain high levels of the chemical. Regardless, Plainfield Township plans to spend up to $400,000 for filters aimed at lowering the low level of PFAS in the system to zero.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation
PFAS is found in many things, but the source of the contamination in Plainfield and Algoma townships is believed to be waste from Rockford-based shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide that was dumped decades ago. Much of the contamination has been discovered near the company’s landfill on House Street NE in Belmont.
This week, test results found high levels of PFAS in the blood of a woman who has lived for more than two decades across the street from the House Street dump and whose well has the highest level of the chemical found so far, as well as in the blood of a 20-month-old boy in the area. Exactly what that means for their health is not yet known.
Wolverine has been footing the bill for well testing, bottled water and whole-house water filtration filters in affected areas. Earlier this week, the DEQ filed a federal lawsuit against Wolverine to ensure it keeps complying with state orders and paying for response to the crisis. Wolverine said it is committed to remedying the situation.
As of Thursday, property owners had filed 47 lawsuits against Wolverine in Kent County Circuit Court. The company also faces a federal class-action lawsuit by homeowners.
“I think there was a lot of preconceptions about this being a Plainfield Township, Wolverine issue. I’ve asked the DEQ is this related to Wolverine and they can’t say yes or no. We don’t know,” the Sparta village manager said of the contamination in Well #2.
Any Sparta residents with questions can contact Suchy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616.887.8251.
–24 Hour News 8’s Zach Horner contributed to this report.