Low levels of PFOS, PFOA detected

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Major General Leonard Isabelle provides an update on what the military is doing to help remedy the groundwater contamination at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and wells that tested for low levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging people whose wells that tested positive not to drink it or cook with it. Distrcit Health Department No. 4. will help coordinate getting people filters or bottled water.

ALPENA — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said tests done on the wells within a one-mile parameter of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center showed little or no trace of the perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid like was found at the base.

There are still more questions than answers however and as a result the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that any of the 80 wells that tested positive for the compounds not drink or cook with their well water. The department did not however issue a health advisory.

DEQ Remediation and redevelopment Specialist Dave Lindsay said there were 21 tests that came back where there was no PFOS or PFOA detected and 24 that tested between .56 and 15.6 parts per trillion. The EPA health advisory level is set at 70 parts per trillion, so all of the results thus far are well below that mark.

Still, Health and Human Services toxicologist Christina Bush said until more can be known about the contamination at the base and whether levels could go up, down or stay the same, using another source of water for drinking and eating is recommended.

“Right now we can’t say if it is going to go up or down and we are going to have to continue to work with the base and DEQ to find those answers,” Bush said. “We’ll continue to test and learn more and provide further updates when we know more.”

Lindsay said the well that tested positive didn’t follow any type of pattern but were scattered. He said because of this and the fact the levels were very low, DEQ couldn’t at this time say for sure the compounds came from the base, but he stressed testing and clean-up at the base would continue and studies would be done to determine the threat for further contamination off the base.

“Right now there is just no way that we can connect what we’re seeing in the wells with what’s going on at the base,” Lindsay said. “The levels are so small that it could be from the plumbing system in the home.”

PFOS and PFOA are used in many products, including Teflon, which is used for many kitchen utensils and household products. The contamination at the base was caused by the compounds being in fire suppression foam that was used at the base.

People whose well tests detected the agents can contact District Health Department No. 4 who will help coordinate getting a faucet filter for the home or water delivery from Culligan.

At this time the DEQ does not intend to extend the testing zone from the one-mile radius around the base, but Lindsay said there are still other wells that haven’t been tested because either the owners chose not to, or they are out of town for the winter and live in Alpena during the spring and summer. He urged those who have not had tests done to do so.

“All of the tests we get from the wells will be important in our planning and decision making,” he said.

Bush said because there are lakes and rivers near the base, there was also tests done on fish to check for toxic levels of PFOS. She said that is the only one that can impact fish. Tests were done on 14 walleye, 17 pike, six bass and several bluegill from Lake Winyah and one walleye and two bass from Four Mile Pond. Bush said fish were hard to catch at Four Mile, so more fish will need to be tested later in the year.

All of the tests are pending, but Bush said an update will be provided when test results are received and reviewed.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.