PARCHMENT, Mich. (FOX 17/AP) - Federal, state and local leaders addressed concerns Friday morning in Kalamazoo County regarding contaminated drinking water.
U.S. Representative Fred Upton, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Kalamazoo Co. Sheriff Richard Fuller, Parchment mayor Robert Britigan and others with the state and county health departments were on hand at Parchment High School Friday morning.
More than 3,000 cases of bottled water have been handed out after Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAs, were found contaminating its municipal water supply, nearly 20 times the limit the EPA considers to be safe. The Parchment football team and students helped distribute the water Friday morning.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller told reporters that crews began passing out water at 6:30 a.m. Friday in Parchment, hours after residents were warned not to drink or cook with water from the faucet.
Starting Thursday, officials said they began using Kalamazoo City's water system to flush Parchment's municipal water system; however, they warn it is still unsafe to drink.
"Just because you see the city of Kalamazoo trucks hooked up and you see water moving and you see the flushing, the city of Kalamazoo water in Parchment system at this time is not safe to drink," said Jim Baker, Kalamazoo City utility worker.
The testing that discovered the PFAs in Parchment's drinking water was done proactively by the state. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Friday said the state is testing 1,800 municipalities' water systems statewide and are about halfway through testing. He added Parchment is the first municipality to test higher than the set standards for PFAs at 70 parts per trillion.
"Michigan decided to be the first in the nation to require testing of smaller water systems," said Lt. Gov. Calley. "My understanding is there are about 1,800 systems that need to be tested, and since we started we’re about halfway through those. [Parchment] is the first one that came out at a level above the action, the state action level."
The Parchment water system serves about 3,000 people.Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller says there is enough bottled water "right now" for anyone who needs it.
"We’re confident that things are being taken care of and that we’re here for the long haul," said Sheriff Fuller. "We will take care of people."
Fuller warns residents there are scammers already targeting affected homes. He warns that people posing as officials with the health department are knocking on doors trying to sell testing and other things to homeowners. If this happens tell the person to leave and report it to police.
Meanwhile, the science behind PFAs and its health effects is evolving. This testing is the first of longterm testing, as officials explained Friday they do not yet know where these PFAs originated; they are also working out a strategic plan to test some residential wells within a one-mile radius of where they find the source contamination.
"The other thing we’re also trying to figure out at this point in time is we want to know where PFAs compounds may have been made or used in the area," said Mark Ducharme, MDEQ Incident Management Specialist.
State and Kalamazoo County health officials said Thursday that tests found PFAS in the water supplied to Parchment and neighboring Cooper Township.
Anyone unable to pick up bottled water from Parchment High School can call the Parchment Water Hotline and ask for a delivery at: (269) 567-7595 or (269) 567-2517. Officials will need to know your name, phone number, address and number of people in your household.
Additional questions will be answered by county health professionals at the county hotline: (269) 373-5346.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.