GRAWN — Ken Krogel’s tap water trickles through a new filter installed after tests found contamination in his well — he still won’t consume it.
“I don’t drink it, period, even through the filter,” said Krogel, who lives in a subdivision on Flamingo Drive.
His Blair Township home sits a stone’s throw away from the site of a 1995 tire blaze. Firefighters fought it using a foam that contained perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that seeped into the ground and contaminates water supplies for Krogel and a dozen of his neighbors.
He and a handful of residents came out to an open house Thursday at the Blair Township offices. Local and state personnel answered questions and shared plans for addressing the contaminated water supplies.
DEQ sampling efforts in September found 13 homes with contaminated drinking water. The discovery prompted health department officials to make sure the affected residents switched to bottled water until filters could be installed. Grand Traverse County Health Department Environmental Director Dan Thorell said officials installed 11 of 13 filters.
Krogel questioned the effectiveness and value of the filters. He clearly does not trust his.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials send money to health departments to cover the costs of providing bottled water and filters to affected residents, like Krogel. He saw the receipt for the equipment and scoffed at the unit’s price.
“That thing’s so cheap and chintzy, it’s not even funny,” he said. “I wouldn’t have paid $50 for it.”
The immediate long-term solution would be switching affected homeowners to municipal water supplies. But the cost of that is expensive.
Krogel believes government officials should cover those costs. Officials are searching for any grant funding or loans that may be out there, Thorell said. That effort remains a search in progress.
“It would be great if there was a pot of money out there,” he said. “At this time, it is not out there.”
Michigan State University Extension personnel spoke to residents about alternatives to consuming the water for children, like drinking bottled or filtered water, low-fat milk and juice diluted with clean water, said Sarah Eichberger, the extension’s nutrition program and physical activity supervising educator.
She also recommended mothers breast-feed rather than feed infants formula mixed with the contaminated water.
State officials continue monitoring that contaminated water and looking for more solutions.
David Maynard, a senior environmental quality analyst at the Department of Environmental Quality, said personnel are working to install monitoring wells near the site of the initial contamination that has since flowed into drinking water. Those will enable DEQ workers to sample groundwater quarterly for the next two years to monitor whether the PFAS levels increase or decrease.
None of the results for the homes tested had perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid — two of the PFAS substances being closely monitored — at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s 70 parts per trillion advisory cutoff. The highest test came back at 36 parts per trillion of all PFAS.
“We suspect it won’t get any higher than this, but we want to make sure,” Maynard said.
The 70 parts per trillion measure is an ongoing argument among health and public officials. Thorell expects the number will decrease. Site Manager Christina Bush said MDHHS officials are reviewing the number, but she did not immediately have knowledge of the deliberations.
Officials shared some relief that the tests came back below that threshold, but Thorell said residents should take the threat seriously.
“If it was my house and my well, I would be concerned,” Thorell said.