Alarming Levels of PFAS Detected in Groundwater Near East Bay Twp. Neighborhood

Michigan health officials have detected PFAS in the groundwater nearby the Cherry Capital Airport and Coast Guard Air Stations.

The toxic chemical has been detected in amounts upwards of 1,000 times higher than the standard safety limits near an East Bay Township neighborhood, Pine Grove.

The Grand Traverse County Health Department says at least 20 homeowners and one business in the area located north of Parsons Road, south of Munson Avenue, west of Three Mile and east of Airport Access Road may be affected. The private wells are suspected to be contaminated and testing of each well is being initiated.

They’re being tested because EGLE found PFAS nearby and prompted the need for further investigation. Testing of the private wells will begin next week, results will take a week to come back.

Anyone in the neighborhood who’s hooked up to municipal water sources is OK.

PFAS refers to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances which are common compounds in man-made items ranging from tape to clothing to cookware. EGLE suspects in this case, the PFAS could have seeped into the water from firefighting foams which were used for training at TVC and the Coast Guard stations years ago. They have not definitively confirmed the source of PFAS.

PFAS ingestions and exposure has been linked to dangerous health outcomes such as birth defects, certain cancers, thyroid issues, and more.

“There were several concentrations of PFAS compounds that were found that exceeded drinking water criteria and groundwater criteria,” said Dan Thorell, the Grand Traverse County Health Department’s environmental health director. “It ranges from very high to elevated.”

PFOS limits are safe in quantities of 16 parts per trillion or less. In one spot EGLE tested, the levels exceeded 17,000 parts per trillion.

Neighbors in the area are concerned.

“What I know is that it’s very dangerous and very pervasive and it can be a lot of places,” said Bob Chauvin, who’s lived in the area for more than 30 years. “I don’t know about how big the spread is and what have you, so right off the top of my head, am I confident it will be cleaned up? Not necessarily. But that doesn’t mean I don’t trust the government.”

Edith McCall has lived in the area for more than 40 years and says her neighborhood has experienced pollution and contamination before.

“[I feel…] not too good about it, I mean, you know. But it was probably something that was going on for 40 some years, 50 years, long time,” McCall said.

The health department is providing well water users with bottled water right now. It’s available for pickup at designated times at the Metro Fire Administration building on the corner of Parsons and Three Mile Road. They’ve sent letters to affected homes with more details.

EGLE and other agencies are hosting a virtual town hall on Monday night to address the issue and lay out their strategy to move forward. For more information about that, click here.