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EGLE investigators trying to determine source of PFAS contamination in drinking water

Posted at 7:32 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 19:32:25-04

WATERFORD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A team of investigators from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) returned to Oakland County Wednesday to collect more samples of water, potentially contaminated with PFAS, in an effort to determine the source of the man-made chemicals.

PFAS has been detected in 25 out of 26 homes where the well water was recently tested.

In six of the homes where the PFAS was detected, the levels were above state health-based standards.

The homes are located just north of the Oakland County Airport where PFAS has also been detected in the ground at a depth of about 12 feet.

Kevin Wojciechowski, a senior environmental quality analyst for EGLE who is leading the investigation, said they would expect any water in the ground at the airport to be traveling south and not to the north where the homes tested are located.

PFAS is a large group of man-made chemicals that has been used in everything from the manufacturing of consumer products to foam used by firefighters to extinguish fires involving flammable liquids.

PFAS can pose health risks if consumed, and the chemicals don't break down and can accumulate in the human body.

The health risks range from increasing cholesterol to lowering a woman's chance of getting pregnant.

On Wednesday, Wojciechowski and his team collected five water samples from streams leaving Williams Lake and Maceday Lake.

"We had some questions about flows of surface water," he said.

Water filters that the state will pay to have a licensed plumber install on kitchen faucets are being offered at every home where PFAS was detected.

EGLE is set to expand their testing of well water at other homes and businesses in the surrounding areas after they obtain a list of the locations where well water is being used.

Determining who is using well water can be difficult, so Wojciechowski said the Waterford water division is assisting by looking at locations where they do not send a water bill.

The long-term fix is to have private well owners hook up to the municipal water supply, but Wojciechowski said making that connection would not be mandatory.

The state is expected to cover the cost of the connections but residents would then have to pay the water bill on their own.

"Because we want a permanent fix," Wojciechowski said. "We don't want to rely on filters forever for these people."