State fire marshal talks PFAS foam goals with local fire chiefs

Posted at 5:13 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 17:14:03-04

WYOMING, Mich. -- The state fire marshal met with fire officials from across West Michigan at the Wyoming Fire Department, Thursday morning. They discussed AAAF class b foam, the goal of ending its use, and disposing of it.

The foam is linked to PFAS, a set of chemicals that have threatened Michigan's groundwater and citizens' health.

State fire marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer said AAAF class b foam is the kind of foam used to fight fuel-related fires like tanker fires and plane crashes. It's more toxic than class a foam which is used to fight house fires, according to Sehlmeyer.

He said, "If you have to use it for life or limb use it."

"But what we want to know is where did you use it, immediately. Because when they cleanup whatever the product is that you were there for, they're also going to cleanup the class b foam and the water that was used," Sehlmeyer explained.

He said out of 670 fire departments surveyed statewide, there are about 32,000 gallons of class b foam in existence. The goal is to dispose of all of it safely at some point in the future, he said. But Courtland Township fire chief Steven Mojzuk said his department doesn't have the chemical.

"Our neighbor to the south of us has some that we can use if we get to that point," Mojzuk explained.

Although Courtland's trained with class b foam, Mojzuk said he's never had to use it in a real fire and recently sampled well-water for PFAS.

He said, "We've had all four wells tested around our fire station where we trained with it, and I can tell you that they all came back negative."

Now he and other chiefs are wondering about safer alternatives to class b foam.

Sehlmeyer explained, "One of the things that I'm working hand-in-hand with the DEQ and I asked in the last couple weeks is that, how do we take the different products that are out there for sale that are going to be the replacements."

He added, "We need to test those to make sure that they don't have them in there."

Sehlmeyer said there's no timeline on disposing of the class b foam but said it could be costly.