Reverse osmosis filters at Allegan's Water Treatment Plant. (File photo)

Allegan city to test water for PFAS contamination

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

The City of Allegan has approved spending $2,975 for testing of its three drinking water wells for PFAS compounds.

While testing is not currently required by the DEQ, the city wants to take a proactive stance to assure residents their drinking water is safe.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances called PFAS are a likely carcinogen also linked to other illnesses.

The DEQ is requiring wastewater treatment plants with industrial pretreatment programs to evaluate potential sources of PFAS, investigate probable sources, reduce or eliminate the sources found, and take other actions to protect surface water quality as needed. A plan to sample these probable sources must also be developed.

Currently there is no approved method for sampling for PFAS in wastewater; however, the DEQ will release one when it becomes available.

Utility facility director Doug Sweeris said with so many different compounds in the wastewater, only the influent and effluent sources can be tested for now.

For drinking water sampling, Pace Analytical of Grand Rapids is one of only 25 labs certified in PFAS testing.

The City Council on Feb. 26, unanimously approved Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering to sample the three production wells at the Allegan Drinking Water Plant and to have it tested by Pace Analytical.

So far, the only test for PFAS near Allegan has been in the 22 area wells tested for contamination after Allegan Metal Finishing Company burned down. No PFAS were found in those wells; however they are from a different aquifer than the city, Sweeris said.

PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. They are most often associated with nonstick coatings; plating operations; firefighting foams; and stain- and water-resistant treatments for clothing, furniture, and carpeting.

PFAS are very persistent in the environment and can bioaccumulate in animal and human tissue. The chemical PFOS in particular, due to its persistence and toxicity, has led to fish consumption advisories for some Michigan rivers.

In Plainfield, a Wolverine World Wide PFAS investigation began last year with discovery of contaminated wells near the company’s old sludge waste dump. It has since spread to Algoma Township and the city of Rockford. The DEQ is also investigating whether other old farms west of U.S. 131 spread contaminated sludge as a fertilizer on fields.

Allegan’s utility facility director Doug Sweeris said, “In light of recent news in Kent County regarding PFAS in the ground water and coupled with increased scrutiny from regulatory agencies regarding these chemicals, staff would like to take the proactive step and have the wells at our water plant tested.”

Upon completion of the testing, the city will share the results with the community through the Consumer Confidence Report as well as social media channels.

Since the approval was made, Sweeris said he was informed the DEQ might cover the cost of sampling in the near future.

 “If they are going to wait until next year, we’ll go ahead and pay for our own sampling,” Sweeris said.

The DEQ will eventually require all tier 1 drinking water facilities to test for PFAS.

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