Michigan expands private well testing for toxic chemicals

Posted at 7:06 AM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 07:06:39-04

OTSEGO, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is expanding testing for toxic chemicals.

The agency plans to identify an additional 25 residential wells near a paper factory landfill in Otsego to sample and test for perfluorinated chemicals, known as PFAS, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported . The factory was operated by Menasha Corp. until 2005 and is now run by USG.

The agency plans to conduct additional testing, including of soil samples from farms where sludge from the paper factory was applied, said Chris Lantinga, who’s with the department’s Kalamazoo District.

The decision to expand testing comes after the agency received test results that verified the presence of PFAS in residential drinking wells. Dioxin-like chemicals were found in all 62 wells tested, though none exceeded the government’s health advisory levels, said Dave Heywood, Kalamazoo District supervisor for the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division.

The DEQ plans to collect additional samples for another round of testing, through a different lab after concerns of potential quality control issues, Heywood said.

The investigation began this spring after residents voiced concerns about people with cancer and other serious ailments in the area. Agencies involved in the investigation include the DEQ, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Allegan County Health Department.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked in human studies to cancer, thyroid malfunction and other diseases.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry plans to examine documents related to the paper factory, said Region 5 Director Mark Johnson.

“We’ll review any information that’s available, and to the extent we can than correlate that with any health effects people are reporting, we’ll attempt that,” Johnson said. “But it’s going to be quite limited.”