BELMONT, Mich. – A common chemical found in cleaning products, stain resistant clothing, and fast food containers has leached into the well water of several homes in the Belmont area.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances called PFAS were found several levels higher than the recommended safety level in wells across the Belmont area. The substance got into the drinking water of some homes, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. MDEQ says exposure to PFAs can be harmful to health.
“What has been found by the toxicologists when they have researched where this chemical has been released in large quantities is in Minnesota and West Virginia, and they found health effects in those populations,” says David O’Donnell, MDEQ field operations supervisor for West Michigan.
Health risks that have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, along with thyroid and cholesterol issues and also pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. The EPA says PFAs can be a "lifetime risk" for anyone exposed for more than a few years.
And because people respond to chemicals differently, predicting how it will affect each person is difficult.
“Somebody could drink it for 70 years and not have a problem, and then someone could drink it for 10 years and have a problem," O'Donnell says.
Wolverine Worldwide is conducting the investigation into the affected areas and providing water filtration systems to homes with infected well water. MDEQ is supervising the investigation, which includes at least three former dump sites operated by Wolverine in the 1960s and 70s.
“The DEQ’s role is to make sure that whatever they do is consistent with state law and that the samples they take are quality samples,” says O’Donnell. "So we will be doing oversight of that work as they collect it and a review as they come back."
Wolverine issued this statement:
“Wolverine is in discussions with the MDEQ about a possible expansion of the testing area. While nothing has been finalized at this hour, we continue to work with them to identify best next steps based on the latest data. We remain committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensuring area residents have water they can trust.”
If you live near the affected areas and have questions, you can call the Environmental Assistance Center at 1-800-622-9278.