Read the full article by Garret Ellison

“CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI — The Gerald R. Ford International Airport claims its testing shows that drinking water at nearby homes is safe, despite independent private tests that found PFAS in wells near a creek previously contaminated by aircraft de-icing fluid.

The airport says only one of the 28 nearby private residential water wells it sampled this summer tested positive for low PFAS levels, prompting the facility to issue a Wed., Sept. 26 press release stating its test results ‘indicate drinking water is safe.’

The announcement included concurrence from the Kent County Health Department that there’s ‘no need’ to continue testing in the neighborhood, but not from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which says it’s waiting for more data.

Exactly where the airport tested homes isn’t known. Citing confidentiality agreements, the airport won’t identify specific addresses or even streets on which it took samples.

Homeowners in the neighborhood northeast of where the airport once conducted fire training with PFAS-laden AFFF foam are reluctant to speak on the record, but some have privately shared test results that show detections of multiple PFAS compounds.

Scott Rissi, president of the Cascade Thornapple River Association, said homeowners are confused by previous tests showing no PFAS in wells at Cascade Township Park, which is sandwiched between the airport and neighborhood streets where PFAS have been found…

The confusion has led to suspicions about the airport’s data, Rissi said. The airport ‘should at the very least release the street names where they are checking.’

The PFAS issue echoes a long-running problem that neighbors previously had with propylene glycol-based aircraft de-icing fluid, Rissi said, which is funneled into the Thornapple River during the winter via Trout Creek, a tributary which cuts through the neighborhood.

During winter, Rissi said the airport previously used de-icer containing urea, which homeowners believe contributed to high nitrate levels found in some neighborhood wells. Some of those wells have also showed PFAS detections, he said.

Detections of individual PFAS compounds have been low, but one home near Tripoli Street SE tested at 95-ppt total PFAS in April. Homes on either side of Trout Creek, on Tuscany Drive and Tanglewood Drive, have also shown detections.

‘Put those two pieces of evidence together,’ Rissi said. ‘Where there were high nitrates — well, what do you know — that’s where wells are testing positive for PFAS.’…

Rissi said some neighborhood residents have met with and shared their test results with the airport, hoping to spark follow-up testing and provide data to the larger investigation.

On a conference call with MLive, airport managers confirmed they did not factor-in those requests, nor consider where de-icing fluid previously caused problems when choosing where to sample nearby residential wells for PFAS contamination…

When asked whether the airport sampled wells around Tripoli Street and Burger Drive SE, communications director Tara Hernandez said, ‘we’re not going to answer that.’

Airport CEO James Gill said the state hasn’t identified any correlation between past runoff issues and PFAS testing. ‘If they thought there was a correlation there, we’re listening,’ he said.

Gill cast doubt on the validity of private PFAS test results obtained by homeowners, saying the airport takes ‘no accountability or responsibility’ for data obtained by residents.”