Groundwater Contamination Concerns Addressed at Blair Township Open House

Some Northern Michigan residents are learning about possible groundwater contamination that was caused by fire-fighting techniques used more than 20 years ago.

A tire fire broke out back in 1996 at “Carl’s Retreading”, in Grand Traverse County’s Blair Township. The foam sprayed onto the fire contained chemicals known as PFAS, which weren’t known to be hazardous at the time. But contamination concerns came to light last year, and officials have spent much of this year in the testing phase.

Dan Thorell is the Environmental Health Director for the Grand Traverse County Health Department. He says, “the fire-fighting foam was used on the site. We know that. We know it’s in the groundwater. What we don’t know is the extent of the contamination and if it’s increasing or decreasing.”

Twenty-eight wells were tested, as was the well at Blair Elementary School. The school test came back clean, and of the 28 residential wells, just 13 have some level of PFAS in their water. But Thorell says it’s not a health threat. “The good news is the levels are low, they’re well below the health advisory level that was set by the EPA.”

Even so, local and state agencies met with area residents Thursday night at Blair Township Hall to address any concerns. Christina Bush with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says “we want to proactively give them information so they can ask informed questions.”

Water at the site was checked for contamination this spring. And the DEQ will test the groundwater there quarterly over the next two years. Homes to the west are on municipal water, so it’s the homes to the east and southeast they’re concerned about. All of those wells have already been tested, or the tests have been offered to those homeowners.

Thorell says if any other property owners in the study area still want their well tested, they can contact the Health Department.