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Kalamazoo proposes $51 million plan to filter PFAS

Michigan Radio

The City of Kalamazoo has introduced a plan to filter PFAS chemicals out of its drinking water. The plan would bring the city into compliance with tighter federal regulations on the compounds — often called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down naturally in the environment — in drinking water.

The plan is included in a proposal for a loan from the state government.

The plan would consolidate two water pumps and upgrade them to filter for PFAS. One of the pumps, Station 5 (which was built in 1914) recorded levels of a type of PFAS above the accepted national and state limits. City officials said they hope the new plan will address the problem.

“If we're going to invest in a new station, we plan to put protection in place and to have PFAS treatment at that station,” said James Baker, Kalamazoo public services director and city engineer. “Our ability to control accuracy and precision, and then overall water quality, is improved if we've got fewer stations to focus on and manage.”

The plan is part of a $91 million proposal for funding from Michigan's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The proposal also includes water main extension and lead pipe replacements.

The city estimates without state funding the plan would cost the average water ratepayer about $8 more a month. But Baker said a low-interest loan from the state fund would help offset that cost. “We're very hopeful that we will be successful and bring some funding back to Kalamazoo so that the cost of this doesn't have to be entirely borne by ratepayers,” he said.

He said the city is on a path to meet requirements for PFAS contamination by a required 2029 deadline. “We would expect to have that station online and operational by the fall of 2028,” Baker said.

However, he added that if the proposal wasn’t successful the city would have to work quickly to look for other grant opportunities.

Research on the health effects of PFAS exposure is still ongoing, but the compounds have been linked to elevated risks of certain cancers and developmental delays.

Kalamazoo will have a public meeting on the proposal on May 20.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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