Thousands of soil samples taken in Otsego during contamination investigation

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 25, 2019

OTSEGO, Mich. - Some residents in Otsego are concerned that PFAS and other chemicals are contributing to longterm health effects.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has been testing sites and properties in Otsego. Using a T-shaped tool, state workers are able to collect soil 12 inches below the surface.

"The amount of time that my staff has put into this, as well as myself... It is one of the bigger project," said David Heywood, a District Supervisor who works with Michigan EGLE (formerly DEQ).

EGLE has been working for the past several weeks to test about 20 properties for a chemicals including PFAS, dioxins, and furans. The organization's concern is that the former Menasha Corporation Paper Mill plant may have contaminated soil or water in the surrounding area.

"We don't have confirmation that Menasha was doing that definitively, but we do have concerns that it may be here," said Heywood. "That's why we're checking."

Pam McQueer has attended many of the sites as state workers have sampled soil. Like the EGLE, she wants to know if any chemicals or contaminants may be present in her hometown.

"I'm anxious. I'm nervous. I'm hopeful," said McQueer. "I feel that it's been a blessing that we have the opportunity to come back and do something like this."

McQueer has suffered from an eye condition. At one point, she could not see at all. McQueer and her doctors believe that her condition may be related to either contaminants or chemicals she may have been exposed to.

"Our health really lies, maybe the answers, are here in this soil that we are going to test for today," said McQueer.

It will take several weeks for the samples to get tested. EGLE is also working with the state health department to identify any potential health risks once the results are analyzed.