“RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, MI — Health concerns are on the minds of many Richland Township residents after high levels of the contaminant PFAS were found in the well water of four households last week…
The homes are just east of a historically contaminated site formerly occupied by electro-planting firm Production Plated Plastics, shuttered in 1989.
The factory, which made chrome-plated plastic trim for automobiles, has a long history of contamination, though the presence of elevated levels of PFAS chemicals was only recently uncovered.
Brenda Lantinga has lived in Richland her entire life, living in a farmhouse directly West of Production Plated Plastics from 1971 to 1975, a time when the manufacturing site was still operational.
‘I’ve said for years that the drinking water for Richland had to be contaminated,’ Lantinga said.
Lantinga’s grandmother and mother lived in the farmhouse and drank the well water there. Both women were diagnosed and treated for Leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, she said. It is hard for her not to correlate her family’s health problems with the water.
‘For me it was an ‘aha,” Lantinga said. ‘When my mother, who’s not related by blood to my grandmother was diagnosed with the same thing it’s like wait a minute, we all lived in that house and we all know that the plastics factory is contaminating the water. It’s the obvious connection.’
Issues at the site span decades, resulting in several lawsuits brought by various state agencies until it closed.
In 1977, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sued the company after chromium contamination was found in nearby groundwater. The source was believed to be two lagoons near the plant, where chromium-laden water was allowed to accumulate and seep into the groundwater.
In 1992, the company was ordered by a federal judge to pay $1.5 million in fines. The judge ruled the company purposely thwarted the effectiveness of hazardous waste laws by failing to clean up soil and groundwater contamination.
The company ultimately went bankrupt.
Richland Township resident Deb Bogema said she remembers when Production Plated Plastics was in operation and contaminating the groundwater in the 1980s and 90s, adding that she was highly involved in improving the water quality in the area.
‘I fought like crazy,’ Bogema said. ‘I had two babies, and they had to take care of it.’
When the groundwater was found to be contaminated, Bogema said her goal was to get safe, city water to the schools and homes close to the Production Plated Plastics site. She added that she had been assured by officials that the water was safe and if she had not insisted on having her well water tested, the contamination would not have been found.
‘City water is about a half a mile down the road, and I do take credit for getting city water to Richland because I was like a maniac,’ Bogema said. ‘I mean somebody had to be, somebody had to make it happen.’
Since that time, she has moved. Bogema built a house a mile east of where she lived before and is, once again, in a zone where the Department of Environmental Quality is testing well water.”
Read the full article by Winter Keefer