“MOUNT CLEMENS, MI — Test results show contamination has been pouring out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair, which is the source of drinking water for nearby municipalities reporting detections of harmful chemicals.

Five storm-water drainage outfalls around the Macomb County air base tested positive in February for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contamination, according to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sampling data obtained by MLive through the Freedom of Information Act.

The sum total of six PFAS compounds in the drainage entering the Clinton River near the intersection of Irwin Drive and North River Road tested for 5,009 parts-per-trillion (ppt). Total PFAS in another outfall downstream near Bridgeview Street tested at 4,771-ppt.

Total PFAS in base water entering Lake St. Clair directly from a drainage outfall on the northeastern base perimeter off Jefferson Avenue tested at 947-ppt.

The results pinpoint Selfridge as a known source of PFAS in Lake St. Clair, which is the raw drinking water source for several communities, including Mount Clemens, New Baltimore and Ira Township. Testing last year confirmed low PFAS levels in those municipal supplies, which together serve a population of about 35,000.

There is also a consumption advisory for bluegill and sunfish in Lake St. Clair due to PFOS — one of many individual PFAS compounds in the contaminant family that health studies link to illnesses like pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, low birth weight, liver damage, thyroid disease and increased cancer risk among people exposed.

Whether the base is the only source is still under investigation. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, PFAS has been detected at high levels in the Clinton River upstream of the base near Moravian Drive, before the river forks at the spillway.

The test results are not exactly surprising. The base, like hundreds of others, used aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF, to train with and fight fires. The PFAS-laden foam has caused contamination plumes at numerous sites in Michigan and nationwide…

The Department of Defense began looking into AFFF use at Selfridge in 2015, but did not get around to testing base groundwater until this spring. Public affairs staff with the 127th Wing at the base say those results are pending but expected ‘later this summer.’

Selfridge public affairs developed a press release about the outfall data sent to MLive in response to requests for an interview with base environmental managers. The release only contains reference to detected levels of PFOS and PFOA, which are two of the six PFAS compounds detected and tested for in base drainage.

The compound PFHxS, commonly found in AFFF, made up roughly half the total PFAS contamination found in base drainage…

One mitigation measure under consideration includes placing activated carbon filters at the outfalls, the base said.

The release states Selfridge replaced 91,000 pounds of AFFF foam with a newer formulation based on different PFAS compounds. Chemical manufacturers say PFOS and PFOA replacements aren’t supposed to last as long in the environment, although public health officials caution that limited study of replacements have not shown them to be any less toxic to humans…

Municipal water managers in Ira Township, New Baltimore and Mount Clemens did not return calls from MLive. Macomb County Drain Commissioner Candice Miller declined to comment on the base PFAS drainage when contacted.

Scott Homminga, superintendent of the water system in Grosse Pointe Farms, which draws from the lake south of the base, said the city’s municipal supply is filtered through granular activated carbon (GAC) filter beds, which are known to remove PFAS…

In addition to municipal water concerns, there has been some testing of private residential well water near the base. The DEQ held a meeting at the Macomb County Health Department on April 16 after sending letters to about 35 Clinton Township residences with wells.

One letter went to the Trinity Lutheran Church and School on Harper Avenue. Rick Wyatt, director of operations, said the facility is on the Detroit municipal water system and the private well there was abandoned several decades ago.

Most of the area is served by Detroit water, he said, which the state considers a PFAS-free source.”

Read the full article by Garret Ellison