Read the full article by Sheri Mcwhirter (Record Eagle)
“TRAVERSE CITY — Public records show eight months elapsed between when state and local officials began corresponding about potential drinking water contamination in the Pine Grove neighborhood and when they told residents.
Timelines posted on both state and airport websites show the official investigation of PFAS pollution at Cherry Capital Airport and the adjacent U.S. Coast Guard Air Station and possible impacts on homes in the nearby neighborhood began in February 2020. But state and local officials waited until October to disclose details about the contamination risk to the residents of the approximately 20 homes suspected of daily use of well water.
‘Why wouldn’t you give the people a heads up? Tell us there might be a problem and save us eight months of contamination,’ said Hillerie Rettelle, who lives in the neighborhood and whose well water returned the second-highest contamination level among those screened.
Residents who live along Avenue B echoed both shock and anger over the delayed notification — their street is where the highest levels of residential PFAS contamination were found by state environmental regulators as part of the investigation launched last year. Both state and local health officials said those reactions are understandable, but they couldn’t officially warn residents about what they couldn’t yet prove.
But residents who were allowed to continue drinking from their wells for those eight months bristled at the regulators’ explanation for the delay.
State environmental regulators confirmed both soil and groundwater samples showed PFAS contamination at Cherry Capital Airport at significant levels and it will now be labeled an official response site for eventual cleanup.
Meanwhile, nearby Pine Grove neighborhood residents with PFAS chemicals found in their private drinking water wells will be connected to a public system that will provide clean water.
Those municipal water connections will arrive four months after the impacted residents first learned about the risk of PFAS contamination in their wells and began to use bottled or filtered water; some now argue they deserved more information, and sooner.
Rettelle said officials at Cherry Capital Airport sent a letter this month about a website dedicated to explaining the ongoing PFAS contamination investigation. It drew her attention to an online timeline and a letter from state environmental officials in February 2020 that mentioned approximately 20 homes using well water that ‘could be at risk from PFAS releases that may have occurred.’
‘Why wouldn’t they notify us at the same damn time? That would have been a full eight months of not contaminating our bodies,’ Rettelle said.
Her across-the-street neighbor Pam Morrison simply said ‘I’m angry.’
Morrison said even if state or airport money couldn’t have paid for bottled water or filtration systems for affected residents, it would have been better to know health and environmental officials believed there was enough of a risk to investigate.
‘If it was important enough to talk about, why couldn’t they have told us,’ she said. ‘I deserved to make a choice.’
State and local health officials said while they can appreciate the residents’ anger, scientific protocol called for provable data before putting out a public health warning.
‘We go out and gather data and act based on the data,’ said Steve Sliver, executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team.
State scientists simply can’t advise residents about risk until they have the facts, he said.
‘We don’t give people recommendations based on no data,’ Sliver said.
The Grand Traverse County Health Department’s environmental health director said much the same.
‘We don’t speculate that there’s a problem until we know there’s a problem,’ said Dan Thorell. ‘It’s not good science to rouse up people and get them concerned until we wait for the data.’
Thorell said he empathizes with those who said they wanted to know about the risk as soon as possible.
‘It’s a difficult thing to swallow knowing they’ve been drinking contaminated water,’ he said…”