After losing mother and sister, family encourages others to test their water

Posted at 8:33 PM, May 06, 2018

PIERSON, Mich.-- The Rozanski family has been through more than their fair share of tragedy and believes the sudden deaths of their relatives may be a result of groundwater contamination from a nearby landfill.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced on April 26 that five wells at Central Sanitary Landfill have exceeded the state limit of PFAS, which is 70 parts per trillion.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are contaminants from man-made sources that may be linked to cancer, pregnancy issues, hormonal interference and other health issues.

The Rozanski family's home is located just feet outside the boundary of the first phase of testing for homes closest to Central Sanitary Landfill.

In 2007, Jennifer Rozanski found out she had cancer. Her sister Melisa Fasburg says by the time doctors discovered it, the disease had already spread throughout her body. According to the family, they have no prior history of cancer with the exception of one case of lung cancer.

“She said, ‘Make sure my son’s okay.'" Fasburg tells FOX 17. "It was hard for me to take that she knew because I wanted her to keep fighting but she already knew it was too late.”

Three weeks later, she died at the age of 29. Soon after, their mom Connie Rozanski was also diagnosed.

“When she found out she had cancer, she fought hard," Fasburg says. “They gave her six weeks and she died in two after she went into hospice.”

A 2007 report from the Grand Rapids Press shows the gas station behind the Rozanski's house had a reported leak. Fasburg says the state replaced their well after their water test showed high levels of 1,2- dichloroethane, a chemical that can cause serious kidney, liver and nervous system issues.

Jennifer Rozanki with her son before she passed away in 2007

At the time, the paper reported that the gas station was found not responsible because the additives in the gasoline were not found in the water samples. The state determined that the contamination must have come from another source, though it didn't get much more specific than that.

Now, Fasburg says they know better.

“Contaminants they replaced our well for were actually over criteria in the landfill the same year, all the way up until 2013," Fasburg says.

According to state documents, 1,2-dichloroethane was found at high levels at the Central Sanitary Landfill down the road from the Rozanski's house. The highest levels were detected between 2005 and 2008.

“Why didn’t they tell us that the landfill was being investigated around the same time?" Fasburg says.

Connie Rozanski (left) with her daughter Melisa Fasburg (right)

Now, Fasburg is using her grief to encourage people to be aware of the potential dangers in their water and take action for themselves. The family hasn't had their water tested since Connie passed away but have been using primarily bottled water.

“The thing that breaks my heart the most is they could have been here for my kids but hopefully we can do something so that other people don’t go through this and lose their loved ones," Fasburg says.

Central Sanitary Landfill released a statement to FOX 17 reading:

“We sympathize with anyone who has a concern and recognize that the mere process of testing can be worrisome. We want to remind neighbors that to date there has been no indication of significant off-site PFAS impacts, as it relates to the Landfill. But, as an environmentally responsible operator, we believe that the upcoming tests are necessary in order to have more data and a complete picture. The testing team is committed to completing the upcoming samplings as quickly as possible, and the Landfill will work with state and local regulators to share the results with neighbors as soon as the analysis is verified.”

In response to the April 26 meeting where residents were told about PFAS found at Central Sanitary Landfill, Wolverine Worldwide provided FOX 17 with the following statement:

"This landfill is operated by Republic Services, and has had multiple users and parties over the years that could have contributed to the potential presence of PFOA and PFOS. Wolverine Worldwide is not involved in testing at this location, was not invited to participate in this public meeting, and therefore has little information about this meeting beyond the public notice. Wolverine also has not been in contact with Republic."

According to state, there are currently ten groundwater monitoring wells being sampled and four more will be added downhill to the areas with the highest concentrations of PFAS.