One of Plainwell’s three wells. (File photo)

Plainwell has small detection of PFAS in water

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

The City of Plainwell proactively tested for PFAS in three wells and found a low level in a back up well that supplies 5 percent of the drinking water. That well has been shut down and water customers were notified in a letter by city manager Erik Wilson on April 13.

A secondary test was taken to corroborate the finding, but results aren’t back yet. The well, on the west side of the city, tested for 22.9 parts per trillion. This level is three times below the EPA and MDEQ standard of 70 parts per trillion. The other two well had no detections. These wells provide 95 percent of Plainwell’s drinking water.

“The back up well is not vital to the system,” Wilson said. “We’ll work with the DEQ for the next steps with the drinking water the primary focus.”

The testing was stepped up by the city to put residents‘ minds at ease following concerns in Plainfield Township, where a Wolverine World Wide PFAS investigation discovered contaminated wells near the company’s old sludge waste dump. It has since been detected in Algoma Township and the city of Rockford.

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

It is found most often associated with nonstick coatings; plating operations; firefighting foams; and stain- and water-resistant treatments for clothing, furniture, and carpeting.

With 3,000 PFAS compounds in use today, only six are currently listed on the EPA watch list and only two with a health advisory risk level.

In Otsego, where a group of citizens are concerned that cancers are being caused from the environment, wells have been tested and the city is awaiting results. That testing was part of a 3-year drinking water monitoring schedule, which has consistently met or exceeded water quality standards. While this testing does not include PFAS, due to concerns by residents, dioxide testing was added to the schedule, which hasn’t been tested in 10 years, said city manager Aaron Mitchell. The results of those tests won’t be available for a few weeks.

Mitchell said the city received a letter from the DEQ saying it will begin testing for PFAS in every well in the state starting this week. He said at $1,200 to $1,400 per well for testing and one small flake on the hand able to result in PFAS detection, the city will wait for the DEQ to test for those compounds.

While Otsego’s wells do not pull water from the Kalamazoo River, testing monitors automated partial chemistry, volatile organic compounds, complete metals, cyanide, pesticides, herbicides and carbamates, gross alpha, radium, bacteriological-coliforms, chlorine residual, total trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids and lead copper for corrosion control. A letter concerning this testing was posted on the city’s website March 29.

The City of Allegan proactively tested for PFAS in the city’s three drinking water wells and tests came back non-detect for 21 different PFAS compounds.

In March, the city approved spending nearly $3,000 for testing, although the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will be testing all wells in the state by 2019.

 Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at or at (269) 673-5534.


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