Homeowner blindsided by record PFAS test result

Jeffrey Klekotka, Algoma Township
Jeffrey Klekotka, the owner of the Algoma Township home where the highest level of PFAS yet found in connection to the toxic tap water crisis was recorded. (Jan. 30, 2018)

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Tests this week that found the highest level of PFAS yet associated with the toxic tap water crisis in northern Kent County call into question whether the scope of the problem is understood at all.

At a private well for a home in the 3000 block of 11 Mile Road, just east of US-131, tests came back showing PFAS levels more than 800 times what the state considers safe for drinking water.

“It was pretty shocking. We just had a new baby at the beginning of December. We’re scared to give the baby a bath, our daily activities, daily routine, get shower, brush our teeth, it’s scary stuff,” said Jeffrey Klekotka.

Klekotka and his girlfriend bought their house in June and moved here with their infant child, looking to start their lives in the highly desired Rockford area. On Tuesday, the state said tests found more than 58,930 parts per trillion of PFAS, a likely carcinogen also linked to other illnesses, in his well. That’s the highest number recorded so far.

The previous high was reported at nearly 38,000 ppt of PFAS at a home directly across the street from the infamous  House Street dump, where Wolverine dumped sludge contaminated with PFAS until 1970.

While neighbors nearby the property say they have much lower PFAS levels, this discovery is disturbing.

”It’s well water, so we always thought well water was healthier than city water. We thought we were getting good, natural water, but apparently not,” Klekotka said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, with the help of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has been trying to determine the scale and severity of the problem for months, but the new discovery may overturn some of its assumptions.

“Well, it’s definitely an astounding number and cause for continued concern. We’re working diligently to try to bring public utilities to that area,” Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green said Tuesday night.

When the results came back for Klekotka’s home this week, Wolverine Worldwide voluntarily installed a whole-house filtration system. Wolverine has said those filters are clearing most PFAS from the water of affected homes.

But Klekotka says he still doesn’t feel completely safe.

“They came in and they put this big, extravagant filtration system in our house, they said it was the biggest one they’ve ever installed,” he said. “Our peace of mind isn’t there. They put in a filtration system, but it’s still, the way you think of it is you’re getting poisoned, contaminated water and it’s going through a couple tanks, and then everything’s fine.”

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Wolverine Worldwide is required to install whole-house filtration systems. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***