Clin­ton River wa­ter sup­ply safe, of­fi­cials say

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY MARK HICKS The Detroit News

State en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials told res­i­dents of the Clin­ton River/Lake St. Clair com­mu­nity Thurs­day that there was no emerg­ing threat of chem­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion in the wa­ter­shed, de­spite tests show­ing the pres­ence of the chem­i­cals in the river and Sel­fridge Air Na­tional Guard Base.

“Thank­fully, we do not have the pub­lic health cri­sis or im­pact you have in other parts of the state,” said Tracy Kecskemeti, the Michi­gan Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity’s south­east Michi­gan dis­trict co­or­di­na­tor. “The mes­sage is: our pub­lic wa­ter sup­plies are safe.”

The state be­gan test­ing com­mu­nity wa­ter sources for PFAS in May. Michi­gan has iden­ti­fied more than 30 con­tam­i­na­tion sites that have tested pos­i­tive for the po­ten­tially harm­ful class of chem­i­cals. The list in­cludes Lake St. Clair and the Clin­ton River in Ma­comb County, a small com­mu­nity wa­ter sup­ply in Parch­ment, res­i­den­tial wells around a Rock­ford tan­nery in west Michi­gan, and marshes, rivers and lakes around mil­i­tary bases in Os­coda, Alpena and Grayling.

The depart­ment, the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sel­fridge led a com­mu­nity brief­ing Thurs­day in Clin­ton Town­ship about ef­forts to ad­dress per­flu­o­roalkyl and polyflu­o­roalkyl sub­stances (PFAS), such as per­flu­o­rooc­tanoic acid (PFOA) and per­flu­o­rooc­tane­sul­fonic acid (PFOS). They are among a group of chem­i­cals used world­wide dur­ing the past cen­tury in man­u­fac­tur­ing, fire­fight­ing and thou­sands of com­mon house­hold and other con­sumer prod­ucts.

Since then, ex­perts have be­come more con­cerned about the po­ten­tial ef­fects of high con­cen­tra­tions of the chem­i­cals on hu­man health.

Gov. Rick Sny­der has or­dered state and lo­cal agen­cies to de­velop a readi­ness plan to ad­dress the pres­ence of the harm­ful chem­i­cals in Michi­gan. Last year, he cre­ated the Michi­gan PFAS Ac­tion Re­sponse Team.

The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity con­ducted the meet­ing “to paint a full pic­ture of what’s go­ing on in the re­gion,” Kecskemeti said.

She noted the pres­ence of PFAS in wa­ter test­ing done near Sel­fridge. The depart­ment is work­ing with the base to de­ter­mine short- and long-term so­lu­tions, she said. “There is go­ing to be a long-term process that we’re go­ing to work on.”

Phillip Ulmer, pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer at Sel­fridge, said base lead­ers have in­vested more than $1.6 mil­lion in re­search and mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts and are “try­ing to pin­point the high­est con­cen­tra­tions ... and de­velop a process that wold re­move the con­tam­i­nants from the soil.”

Mike Schich­tel of Mount Cle­mens at­tended the meet­ing, want­ing to know how the state was ad­dress­ing the threat.

He left feel­ing “more con­fi­dent they’re mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “There are so many things in the en­vi­ron­ment that can af­fect us.”

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