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In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances.PFAS is a family of chemicals that can be found in all sorts of products. But what are the lingering effects of PFAS on our health and the environment?

Cascade Township residents urge state and local officials to speed up PFAS testing

MDEQ map
Department of Environmental Quality
MDEQ map of Cascade Township PFAS plume

Residents living in Cascade Township near Grand Rapids want more state action on PFAS contamination there.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality began investigating the contamination from Lacks Enterprises, a West Michigan auto parts supplier, at its former plating facility in August.

The DEQ found PFAS chemicals at levels between non-detect and 270 parts per trillion in monitoring wells nearby. The EPA's health advisory level for PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.

PFAS chemicals are often used in firefighting foam and stain resistant clothing and carpeting. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to an increased risk of testicular and kidney cancer, and thyroid and immune system issues.

Lacks used PFAS chemicals to control plating baths, mostly to keep chemicals like hexavalent chromium out of the air.

Scott Mutchler lives in Cascade Township. But he lives outside the state’s current testing zone for PFAS chemicals.

Mutchler says he won’t wait for the state to test his well before switching over to bottled water.

“But I do think the state should do this right. I think it’s the right thing to do for health and human safety reasons, is to take a more aggressive approach towards this testing,” Mutchler said.

Al Taylor, manager of the Hazardous Waste Program at the DEQ, says the state is collecting samples from 22 private wells, but test results won’t be back for about three weeks.

Taylor says the DEQ will expand the testing zone if needed, based on the PFAS concentrations it finds.

Alan Rowland is a Cascade Township resident who lives outside the testing area. He says the state should expand the testing zone immediately.

“I think they’re trying to do the bare minimum. I’m a business guy, I get it, but this is human health and we shouldn’t be doing a bare minimum when it comes to human lives,” Rowland said.

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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