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Plainfield Township residents leave municipal water forum meeting unhappy

Water running from tap
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Some Plainfield Township residents left the open forum to discuss municipal water with more questions than answers last night.

The community north of Grand Rapids is dealing with ongoing groundwater contamination.

The toxic chemicals known as PFAS are in the municipal water, but township officials say it tested below the EPA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

Residents were supposed to be allowed to speak to township officials one-on-one about their water and the township’s potential changes to the municipal system.

Instead, residents were huddled around cafeteria tables trying to hear one township official, two lawyers, and a water treatment expert speak.

Sue Smits is a Comstock Park resident who has been living on Plainfield Township water for over 20 years. She left the meeting upset.

“I couldn’t hear what’s being asked or spoken about. A lot of people are frustrated and are leaving because we're not getting any information at all,” Smits said.

Smits says two of her four kids are sick and that the water might have caused it.

“My daughter has had thyroid issues for most of her life, but once she moved away from here, she started getting better and [her thyroid] went back to a more normal size. It could all be a huge coincidence, but then again it might not be,” Smits said.

Smits says her other child who is sick was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. Both of the illnesses have been linked to PFAS exposure.

Cody Angell is a resident who has lived on Plainfield Township water for 28 years.

Angell formed the Demand Action group on Facebook to promote awareness of contaminants in people’s drinking water. He says officials need to do a better job reaching the public.

“I really want [Plainfield Township] to be more transparent and tell the public everything they know. Why hold all these meetings and talk with people if you’re just going to hide the truth,” Angell said.

Cameron Van Wyngarden, Plainfield Township Manager, says the township wants to add a PFAS filter at the water treatment plant that would cost around $400,000.

“We appreciate the patience of the public as we work through these things. Changing the filter at a water treatment center is not like a home filtration system. It takes a lot of engineering time to make sure that’s installed correctly and safely for the public,” Van Wyngarden said.

Plainfield Township has also been planning to extend its water system to homes with private wells. Extending the water system is estimated to cost around $20 million. It would take at least two years to install, says Van Wyngarden.

Van Wyngarden says the township wants Wolverine Worldwide, the shoe manufacturer believed to have caused the contamination, to pay for both the extension and filter. 

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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