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DEQ tests drone to monitor PFAS contamination near Camp Grayling

The Michigan Department of Environmental
Ben Thorp
Michigan Radio

State environmental officials are using infrared drone monitoring for the first time to help identify the source of PFAS contamination in Crawford County.

The Grayling Army Airfield is one of 35 sites with confirmed PFAS contamination the state is monitoring. PFAS are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems. 

Randall Rothe is with the Department of Environmental Quality. He says the Army has confirmed several contamination sites on its base, but it’s not clear how the chemicals are getting into the local lake.

“We used the drone two weeks ago along Lake Margrethe looking for the groundwater seeps to potentially sample for the PFAS chemicals,” he says.

Rothe says the state is using the drone to identify cold spots where underground springs feed into the lake and checking those spots for PFAS.

“That gives us an area to look upland,” he says. “We can do some monitor wells, we can do some borings, we can look up there and say, 'OK, now that we know where it’s coming in where is it coming from on the surface?'”

Two residential wells along the lake have tested over the federal advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

DEQ officials say if this method is successful in helping identify the source of PFAS it could be used at other locations across the state.

Rothe says testing is expected to continue next week.

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