“Trident Labs mostly ran drug tests at its West Michigan facility, screening urine for opioids. A drinking water crisis north of Grand Rapids changed that several months ago.

The lab is one of several Michigan businesses tapping into the new market of testing for unregulated and toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Hundreds of Michigan residents are questioning whether the water that flows out of their kitchen faucet is safe to drink as a state investigation into PFAS continues to expand…

Not only is there no consensus on what level of the contaminate is considered ‘safe,’ PFAS is not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and neither are the labs that test for it.

As the PFAS crisis grows in Michigan, private companies are ahead of the state in launching labs to process the data…

So how did a drug testing lab in Holland Township jump in to the middle of the biggest groundwater contamination investigation in the state?

Trident Labs supervisor Lyle Rawlings lives near East Rockford Middle School northeast of Grand Rapids, where students had to drink bottled water in October 2017 as the state tested their drinking fountains to see if PFAS from a nearby Wolverine World Wide dump site had seeped in. Ultimately, the water was ruled safe to drink.

The lab decided to add PFAS testing and conducted its first run of tests in March using liquid chromatography equipment the lab already had. Trident claims it can produce results for $250 in five days — almost unheard of in the world of environmental testing, where bills can easily reach into the thousands.

Medical labs like Trident are used to quickly turning lab results around, Rawlings said.

Rawlings said the lab has run tests for homeowners near Rockford and near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, as well as across the state. Plenty of residents outside of the PFAS “hot zones” are also having their water tested as well, Rawlings said…

It’s just one example of a business responding to the PFAS crisis.

Gordon Water Systems primarily supplies water filters and water cooler services — but as the PFAS issue became a growing concern north of Grand Rapids, the business added a PFAS sampling service. For $300, the company will sample a home’s tap water and send it away for testing at the EPA-approved Pace Analytical lab in Florida — and then hopes homeowners will consider buying Gordon’s whole-house water filter systems.

In East Lansing, Merit Laboratories started offering a PFAS test this March.

Technical director Maya Murshak said Merit is the first environmental lab in the state offering wastewater, groundwater, drinking water and foam testing for PFAS…

Part of the way Trident can keep its lab costs down is by sending out kits to homeowners to sample their own water.

The kits include nitrile gloves, a field blank and instructions.

Rawlings said the collection process is simple enough for residents to draw the water from the tap themselves — and claims fears of cross-contamination from other possible sources of PFAS like wrappers, makeup or sunscreen is a ‘misconception.’

‘The possibility of this contamination is very low,’ Rawlings said, explaining his lab has not encountered contamination issues.

State officials would beg to differ with that statement.

‘These compounds are so ubiquitous in the environment,’ said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Scott Dean said, listing off a variety of materials samplers should be sure to avoid, including waterproof clothing, certain moisturizers, some sunscreens and fast food wrappers.

The chance for variation in test results when dealing in increments of parts per trillion is too high to leave up to chance, Dean said.

That’s why the state is hiring AECOM to test every public water system in the state for PFAS…

Up until recently, labs conducting PFAS tests were all out-of-state: 18 labs across the country are EPA-approved to test for PFAS using EPA method 537…

Private labs like Trident and Merit are now offering an in-state alternative, following EPA methods.

However, neither are on not on a list of EPA-approved labs, and never could be: the EPA is no longer vetting labs to see if they are following correct PFAS testing methods, according to the EPA.”

Read the full article by Amy Biolchini