IM, Kingsford water ‘safe’ in toxin tests

IRON MOUNTAIN — Toxic chemicals have been detected in drinking water in both Iron Mountain and Kingsford but well within federal Environment Protection Agency safety standards.

Michigan is testing statewide for chemicals known as PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Unsafe levels have been detected near some military facilities and in Kent County, where footwear company Wolverine World Wide dumped waste decades ago.

In Kingsford, the level detected was 3 parts per trillion, or ppt, and in Iron Mountain it was 2 ppt, city officials said. The federal lifetime health advisory for PFAS consumption is 70 ppt, although an assessment released by the Centers for Disease Control in June suggested the number should be closer to 10 ppt.

Michigan is using 70 ppt for decision-making purposes, Kingsford City Manager Tony Edlebeck said in a news release. A part per trillion is the equivalent of one drop of water in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“It is not uncommon to find low levels of PFAS in drinking water supplies, as PFAS can be found in firefighting foams, stain repellants, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food wrappers and many other household products,” Edlebeck said. “They do not break down in the environment and move easily into water.”

In other recent testing, no PFAS was found in drinking water at North Dickinson School in Felch or in municipal supplies in Norway and Quinnesec. Also, there has been no detection of PFAS in Iron County, according to results posted by the state.

PFAS has been studied in Michigan for nearly a decade, but concerns heightened last year after plumes were discovered in wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County.

That helped persuade the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to launch a major screening initiative at a cost of $1.7 million. Exposure to PFAS has been linked in human studies to cancer, thyroid malfunction and other diseases.

Nearly 1.9 million Michigan residents have municipal drinking water containing some level of PFAS, according to state data. Extremely high levels have been found in private wells in Belmont and Oscoda Township. The Kalamazoo suburb of Parchment shut down its municipal wells after total PFAS detections of 271 ppt to 1,828 ppt in June and July testing, mlive reported.

A year ago, Gov. Rick Snyder created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team to enhance cooperation and coordination among local, state and federal agencies dealing with PFAS contamination. The team has a website at www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

Health-related questions also can be addressed to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-648-6942.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 26, or janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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