Read the full article by Garret Ellison

“CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI — Environmental regulators faced pointed questions and frustration Tuesday from local residents wanting specifics about a newly-discovered toxic fluorochemical plume affecting drinking water in Cascade Township.

Several in the Oct. 30 evening crowd of roughly 120 at the Wisner Center tried to extract details from regulators about testing area boundaries around the PFAS contamination plume coming from a former Lacks Enterprises plating shop.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality disclosed the plume on Oct. 19, although officials say the first tests for PFAS there happened in August and September.

Lacks — the fourth largest privately-held employer in West Michigan — is currently providing bottled water to 22 homes drinking from a private well in a roughly six square mile area north of Burton Street, east of Spaulding Avenue and southwest of Cascade Road.

That area encompasses a known plume of heavy metals and boron that Lacks has been cleaning up since its zinc die casting and plating shop at 1601 Galbraith Ave SE closed in 1997.

The larger area encompasses almost 8 square miles.

Although the entire plume area is served by Grand Rapids system water mains, not all properties are connected to the municipal system. State environmental well database records show several dozen private drinking water wells within the expanded boundary.

‘How long does it take to call up the local water company, have water delivered to those 22 homes and move onto the red zone?’ wondered Ryan Bruneau, who lives just outside the boundaries of the DEQ’s planned second investigation area phase.

‘It doesn’t seem like there’s a rush,’ Bruneau said. ‘It seems very casually approached.’

Al Taylor, hazardous waste section manager at the DEQ, fielded most questions posed to the state. He called the investigation ‘data driven’ and said expansion is possible. ‘It’s a fairly large plume and we don’t know where the end of it is yet,’ he said…

One woman who declined to be interviewed afterwards stood up at the meeting and said she and her daughter experienced decades of health problems after renting a property from Lacks near the former plating shop in the early 1980s.

‘My daughter and I were not very well during that time,’ she said.

Taylor said the DEQ Water Resources Division first found PFAS in the old Lacks plating plume by sampling an existing groundwater purge well in August. Existing monitoring wells near the Watermark Country Club and nearby Walden Lake were tested in late September.

The purge well tested for PFOS and PFOA at 270 parts-per-trillion (ppt), almost four times above Michigan’s 70-ppt cleanup criteria for those two chemicals in groundwater. Contamination above 70-ppt was found nearly a mile downgradient of the source site…

The company is liable for the contamination under the state’s hazardous waste correction program, Taylor said. Because the purge well was discharging contaminated groundwater to Walden Lake above the DEQ’s surface water quality standard of 12-ppt for PFOS, ‘they (Lacks) will be getting a violation notice from the Water Resources Division.’

A stream that runs from Walden Lake southeast to the Thornapple River is ‘quite possibly’ carrying contamination past numerous properties, said DEQ geologist Dale Bridgford.”