“CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI — The township where Gerald R. Ford International Airport has begun testing some homes for contaminated well water is making it cheaper for residents to switch to the Grand Rapids water system.

In some cases, such as well system failure and home sale, the switch to city water is mandated if there is a water main adjacent to the property, according to the Cascade Township ordinance amendment passed in mid-June.

The amended ordinance also contains similar provisions and fee reductions pertaining to switches to Grand Rapids sewer connections.

The push to connect more residents to Grand Rapids water wasn’t sparked by possible per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in wells nearby Ford Airport, according to Cascade Township Manager Ben Swayze.

‘This discussion has been going on since 2014, 2015 — really before any of the (PFAS contamination concerns) were on anyone’s radar,’ Swayze said. ‘It certainly helps at this point, too. We are starting to have residents worried about their well water.’

The ordinance amendment largely does not impact concerned residents near the airport in the Thornapple neighborhood, where there is little to no access to water mains.

The township’s 2011 master plan calls for water mains all throughout the neighborhood. Swayze said discussions about implementing those are taking place. He said residents without adjacent mains cannot connect to city water.

Ford Airport notified residents in the Thornapple neighborhood June 29 that officials were reaching out to landowners closest to the airport to begin private well testing for PFOS and PFOA, two PFAS compounds for which the state set new groundwater cleanup standards of 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) in January.

Airport spokesperson Tara Hernandez declined to give the specific area and scope of the residential well testing — something other homeowners were anxious to find out…

One homeowner in the Thornapple neighborhood near the airport who declined to be identified found combined PFOS and PFOA levels in their raw well water of 36-ppt in April.

Test results from Ford Airport showed moderate levels of PFOS and PFOA as well. The highest combined PFOS and PFOA levels in a deep groundwater well was 54-ppt.

The suspected contamination source is the airport’s historic use of AFFF foam, a chemical-based fire suppressant now known to cause contamination plumes in locations it was used in training or for emergencies on airports and military airbases…

‘We have a lot of areas where there are houses that have water or sewer in front of them but aren’t connected in one way or another,’ he said. ‘The idea is that we get more people connected to the system and lesser the costs.’

Before the township and city reduced connection fees, the cost for each utility hookup was anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000, according to Sandra Korhorn, the township’s director of economic development.

‘When they heard the price to connect, they weren’t interested,’ Swayze said of residents wanting city sewer and water.

Now it’s around $5,000 to $6,000 per utility, Korhorn said.”

Read the full article by Michael Kransz