Airport to test for chemicals after state warning

ALPENA –The Michigan Department of Transportation-Aeronautics Division has concerns that the trend of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid that is being found in groundwater near military bases in Michigan could also be lurking near airports.

Alpena County Regional Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said Thursday that, during a statewide conference call, MDOT expressed concerns that the PFOS and PFOA chemicals used in firefighting foam could have impacted the soil and water in the proximity of airports. As a result, the state is getting ready to begin testing near them.

“It wasn’t just the military using these substances, but many other entities, including fire departments that would respond or train at airports,” Smigelski said. “There is going to be a lot more testing taking place to determine the extent of the contamination.”

PFOS and PFOA, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can affect liver, thryoid, pancreas and hormone functions in people who are exposed to them, were detected at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center last year.

That discovery forced groundwater and wells in the area to be tested. As of today, none of the wells tested near the 70 parts per trillion health advisory limit set by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Smigelski said the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies are still monitoring the contamination in Alpena and conducting further tests.

“The USDA will be harvesting some deer and smaller animals to have them tested for any levels of contamination,” he said. “The tests are expected to begin in about two weeks.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.

In other business:

The Alpena County Regional Airport board on Thursday also:

∫ heard that the airport had 1,340 enplanements in July and Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said that is the highest one-month total in several years. So far this year, there have been 6,209 enplanements and if the airport can reach 10,000, it will receive a $1 million subsidy from the Federal Aviation Administration.

∫ Smigelski said the county should know in September if FAA approves the funding for construction of a new terminal.