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Grayling finds “minuscule” amounts of perfluorinated chemical in city’s water wells

Water running from tap
Creative Commons

Grayling water officials say they’ve discovered “trace” amounts of a type of perfluorinated chemical in the city’s drinking water wells. The levels are far belowa health advisory put out by the U.S. EPA.

Grayling Department of Public Works Superintendent Kyle Bond says they first tested for the family of chemicals known as PFCs in May.

EPA recently lowered its “health advisory level” for PFCs. The 70 parts per trillion limit is not a regulation, but an advisory, as more studies on the health effects are done.

Bond says tests at the city’s wells show less than one part-per-trillion, .9 ppt to be exact; nowhere near the EPA advisory limit. The particular chemical they found, perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), is not listed in the EPA’s advisory. But it is in the same family of chemicals.

“I don’t believe it’s a danger to anybody,” Bond said. He has turned over the results to health officials and the state, he said.

Still, Bond says it’s something the city will keep a close eye on. He says they’ll monitor the water by testing quarterly. He says officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are helping find the source.

Bond disclosed the finding at a public meeting Wednesday night. He said he only got the results back a couple hours before the meeting.

“I’ve got nothing to hide. We want to be transparent with people,” Bond said.

Firefighting foam used at Camp Grayling has contaminated some private drinking wells in the region with PFCs, but that plume isn’t in the same area as the city’s wells.  

In addition to their use in firefighting foam, many consumer goods contain PFCs. According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, humans have been widely exposed to two types of PFC chemicals found in the military foam, PFOA and PFOS. Other studies have fluorinated chemicals in fast food packaging.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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