Read the full article by Paula Gardner (MLive.com)
Measurements of the toxic chemicals in the Saginaw River — already a federal Area of Concern since 1987, due to industrial contamination — were below enforcement action last fall when initial results of state tests were received.
But subsequent tests at the Bay City Wastewater Treatment Plant showed much higher levels and raised questions about their origin. The answer for city officials points back to the waterway itself, which is uses for flushing its 5 tanks..
‘We think we found our source – we believe our source is the Saginaw River,’ said Carol Injasoulian, a manager at the city’s wastewater plant.
The testing of the Saginaw River is among multiple efforts at Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to pinpoint how per- and poly-fluorinated compounds affect a watershed…
With watersheds that ultimately drain into the Great Lakes, the value goes beyond local ecological impact. The Saginaw River, for example, flows into Saginaw Bay before it reaches Lake Huron, which is a source of drinking water for millions of state residents.
The search for sources of PFAS in the Saginaw River comes as the state enters its third year of making the threat from the chemicals an environmental and public health priority…
Across Michigan, at least 1.9 million residents have some PFAS in their drinking water. The state filed a lawsuit in mid-January against 17 chemical companies, seeking to recover costs of cleaning the states waterways and public drinking water.
The Saginaw River watershed study hones in on the area of the state roughly between Flint and Saginaw Bay. The river is in Bay, Saginaw, and Tuscola counties, while the Cass, Flint, Shiawassee, Tittabawassee, and Chippewa rivers are the major tributaries.
But results from more than 30 surface water tests indicate a need for more work on the waterway, staff said…
Despite that, two new areas were pinpointed as possible source locations for the contaminants: Dutch Creek, located between I-75 and the southern edge of Bay City; and Birch Run.
That’s in addition to efforts under way by the Bay City Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was found in 2019 to be discharging treated wastewater containing PFAS above state limits into the river.
So far, 10 PFAS sites have been identified within the broad area that drains into the Saginaw River system, each of which resulted in groundwater samples exceeding cleanup criteria for groundwater used as drinking water, which is 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. Some also are the result of direct discharges to surface water, which has a lower threshold of 12-ppt for PFOS…”