Water Quality and Testing Frequently Asked Questions
WORKING ON PROACTIVE WATER SOLUTIONS FOR OUR COMMUNITY
At the January 8 meeting of the Plainfield Township Board of Trustees, residents asked a number of questions and we committed to give you the answers you are looking for. We will continue to use our weekly newsletters and website to share the latest information on this issue.
I agree that contaminants found during UCMR3, other than PFOS, were trace amounts. The concern is we don’t know where in the plume we were at the time of sampling, which occurred 5 years ago. And many of these contaminants were detected in the rounds after Versluis was shut down (December and March), which means there is contamination in the well fields we are still using. Repeating the sampling for contaminants detected will provide information on if these contaminants are now at level approaching or exceeding state and federal guidelines, or if they are no longer a concern. What will it cost to perform UCMR3 resampling for 1,1-dichloroethane, chromium, chromium-6 and 1,4-dioxane?
We intend to do testing for these and other contaminants as part of the ongoing monitoring plan for our proposed granular activated carbon filter system. Testing will be done on the untreated water and the treated water to evaluate the effectiveness of the filter system.
How much is it going to cost to put the filter in?
We have allocated $400,000 for the initial installation. It’s important to note that the filter we will install is not as simple as a Brita filter or even a whole home filter. To install a granular activated carbon (GAC) filter, we will need to retrofit our current filter beds, removing sand and anthracite so that we can install approximately 8,000 cubic feet of GAC – which is roughly 200,000 pounds of material. As noted below, we are evaluating longer term solutions that would run the water through a separate filter(s) either before or after the plant’s regular filters. This solution, if pursued, would be more expensive because it requires additional large piping and possibly a new building.
Explain the tests the Township does for PFAS – is it a quick test or does it look at levels over a more prolonged period of time?
The Township tests the treated water at the point it enters the distribution system approximately once every 3 months. It has been doing this testing for the last two years and the levels over that time have consistently been below 10 ppt. The actual testing is not done in our lab. It is sent to a lab out of state certified to do the testing and it takes about 4 weeks to get the results.
Why is the GAC not a long-term solution?
Granular activated carbon (GAC) is a long-term solution. The initial installation that is being considered for our treatment plant is a solution that can be implemented in a short timeframe. However, the final long-term solution will take longer to develop but will build on the initial solution and will focus on restructuring the design of our water plant to make the most efficient use of GAC filtration.
How fast can the GAC be installed?
Once we receive approval from the DEQ, we anticipate installing the GAC within 30-60 days.
Why are you only going to do half the plant initially?
The two halves of our water treatment plant utilize the same treatment methods. However, the physical dimensions of the filter media beds in the two halves are different. One half will require significant modifications to the physical structure of the media beds to allow the GAC.
What is carbon? How does it work?
Granular activated carbon (GAC) is an organic material that is subjected to high temperature and pressure, which makes it highly porous to provide a large surface area for adsorption of organic compounds, taste and odor compounds and synthetic chemicals. GAC has a finite surface area, so when all the available surface area is covered with adsorbed compounds and chemicals, the GAC is removed and needs to be replaced or regenerated.
Do I need to be worried about chrome? 1,4 dioxane?
Although we have had detections of the unregulated contaminants hexavalent chromium and 1,4-dioxane in our water, the levels are well below the standards set by the EPA and the MDEQ. With the filter improvements we are pursuing, it is anticipated that the levels of these contaminants will further be reduced.
Do you intend to bring Versluis back online after the GAC is installed?
At this point, we do not intend to bring the Versluis wellfield back online.
What’s stopping us from using Versluis again?
The higher levels of PFAS present in the Versus wells would have a significant impact on the life of our proposed GAC filter media. We do not want to compromise that filtering capability.
Can we connect our water with GR’s system?
The Plainfield Township Water System is not currently set up to connect to the City of Grand Rapids Water System, and the actual infrastructure required to physically connect the two systems would likely be cost-prohibitive. There are many different issues that would have to be studied before it could even be considered including the effect of introducing water from a different source and treatment process into the Plainfield system. Differences in water chemistry could lead to larger problems if not done carefully.
Why are you not considering other treatment options? GAC filters are only one option and it would seem prudent to fully evaluate other alternatives (RO, for example) or a connection to the City of Grand Rapids Water System.
We have talked with other municipalities and have explored and continue to investigate many treatment options, including doing nothing, using resin for PFAS removal, reverse osmosis (RO) and granular activated carbon GAC.
Doing nothing at our existing treatment plant is an option only if we can find new wells that are free of contamination and have enough capacity to supply our needs. The well field search is ongoing.
Specialized resin beads also could be used as a filtering mechanism for PFAS removal, but the resin is very specific to PFAS and wouldn’t remove anything else. This option would require major infrastructure improvements at our treatment plant and would take much longer to implement.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is an entirely different treatment process than our current lime softening process and would require building a new treatment plant. It would be effective in removing PFAS, but it would also remove all minerals from the water. The water would be corrosive, so hardness would have to be added back in prior to distribution. The RO process also would create a concentrated reject stream with all the PFAS in it, which would require additional treatment.
GAC would remove organic compounds and taste and odor compounds in addition to synthetic chemicals if present. We are looking into using GAC in some of our existing water plant filter beds to minimize the time needed for implementation. While GAC is being considered for the initial installation, the long-term solution may be one or more of the options above.
A connection to Grand Rapids is not economically feasible as noted above. It is also worth noting that surface water systems, such as operated by Grand Rapids and Wyoming — while producing safe drinking water — are also subject to similar trace contaminants, including PFAS, and additional contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics that are not found in well water.
What is the breakdown of the $25 million bond expenditure? [suggestion was to maybe give it by percentage rather than exact $ amounts since it is an early, inflated estimate.]
Approximately 80% of the proposed expense would go towards extensions of the water system to areas impacted by contaminated groundwater. The remaining 20% would be used for improvements in the treatment plant and the search for a new well field. It is important to remember, that the Township will not bond or expend money on the water extensions until Wolverine World Wide has agreed in a binding commitment to pay for those extensions so this cost — whether financed through bonding or not —does not end up on being a burden to the existing municipal water customers.
Regarding the search for a new municipal well field, can you give us a timeline for a Plan A, if you find a new source, and a timeline for a Plan B, if there is no new source? Will Plan B put a pipe out to Lake Michigan, like Wyoming, or hook up to Grand Rapids?
The original timeline for having a new well field in operation has been delayed due to the evolving investigation into the groundwater contamination issues in the area. Our original intent was to have the additional wells in operation by the end of the 2018 construction season. However, we are re-evaluating sites for both quality and quantity of water supply. This year, we expect to determine one or more sites and complete the construction and infrastructure necessary to be able to use the wells in 2019. We are confident we will be able to identify wells in the Township and have no plans to connect to the City of Grand Rapids water system. Aside from the limited capacity available to serve our system, the physical infrastructure to fully connect our system with Grand Rapids does not exist. The amount of infrastructure improvements that would be necessary both in Plainfield and Grand Rapids would make the project impractical. For similar reasons, it is neither practical nor feasible to construct a pipe to Lake Michigan as a water source.
We know we are installing the filter – what types of contaminants will it remove? What about the other contaminants running through our wells? Will the filter remove industrial waste? Will the filter cover all the contaminants in the water supply?
The granular-activated carbon filters currently being proposed are designed to remove PFAS and other organic chemicals such as the dioxane. While there is no single treatment system that is 100 percent effective for every contaminant, the granular activated carbon filters have been shown to remove many other organic contaminants beyond PFAS. The water softening process is designed to remove most metals including hex chromium. Going forward, we will carefully monitor how effectively the new filter treatment system and the water softening system removes other contaminants and, as we learn more, we will evaluate other treatment methods, if necessary.
Will you test the swimming water in Versluis Park?
The last test of Versluis Lake showed PFOS at 3.7 parts per trillion and PFOA at 6.3. While the state or Kent County Health Department is responsible for testing and determining whether public swimming water is safe, the Michigan PFAS Ground Water Investigation FAQ states: “You may bathe and swim in water containing PFAS. The PFAS do not easily absorb into the skin. It is safe to bathe, as well as doing your laundry and household cleaning. It is also safe to swim in and use recreationally. Getting water with PFAS on your skin will not harm you.” It is important to put this issue in context. Lake Michigan studies show the big lake has PFAS levels ranging from 2 ppt to 20 ppt or higher. You can find more information on PFAS exposure information here.
What were the results of the study of fish done from the Versluis Lake Grand River?
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources tested the fish in Versluis Lake in 2016. From the test results, it was determined that the fish were fit for consumption. Should the MDNR detect an issue in the future, it will issue a warning about consumption for the body of water. To find more information on the MDNR, click here.
Will the township or any other government agency require testing again for Chromium-6, 1,4-Dioxane and other contaminants detected by UCMR3? Can the township order testing of our drinking water on its own for Chromium, Chromium-6, 1.4-Dioxane, 1,1-dichloroethane, molybdenum, strontium and vanadium (contaminants detected during UCMR3), or is permission from MDEQ or any other agency required to have these tests done?
Plainfield Township complies with all DEQ and EPA guidelines when it comes to testing our drinking water, including the pace of testing. During testing in 2013-14, trace levels of the contaminants you mentioned were detected in our water. These levels were well below both state and federal guidelines and lower than any state’s guidelines to our knowledge. We will continue to follow all DEQ and EPA guidelines when it comes to testing. Our engineers indicate that the dioxane, dichloroethane and other organics should be removed by the granular activated carbon filter (GAC) we are working to install. As the owners of the municipal system, we can test more regularly for these or any other contaminants. We will continue to consider new testing, but it would not make sense to undertake that until after the GAC filters are installed.
As of Oct. 2017, MDEQ had launched a study to investigate other possible contamination sources of Plainfield municipal water other than the State Disposal Landfill Superfund Site. This study includes installing monitoring wells due south of Boulder Creek. Does this study include looking for contamination sources to the west well field as well? What is the expected timeline for results?
The DEQ study is not designed to address the source of the trace contamination found in the west well field, although it may have implications on that issue. We are waiting on the results from the DEQ and have not yet heard when to expect them.
Can the Township request the EPA investigate the Boulder Creek (Northeast Gravel) site like they investigated the House Street and the tannery sites? The EPA seemed to uncover a lot more issues than the MDEQ directed testing did at those sites. Many more contaminants were identified besides PFAS. Will you join us to request MDEQ monitor Northeast Gravel Company (Boulder Creek) landfill to the same extent they monitor the State Disposal Landfill Superfund Site? Is it possible to resurrect Northeast Gravel from archived to active EPA Superfund status?
Superfund designation does not change the closure planning and monitoring plan that is developed for a particular site. It is really only a designation that potentially allows for Superfund financing for remediation, which is not relevant since there are viable funding sources here and the site would not likely qualify for the stringent, very limited opportunities for federal Superfund financing.
That being been said, it is likely that the MDEQ will require a monitoring plan of the Northeast Gravel Company. However, there is a closure plan in place that will have to be amended. As a community issue, the Township will monitor this issue with the MDEQ on behalf of residents.
Will you join us in requesting the MDEQ and EPA work to determine who dumped in these sites that contaminated our water?
The DEQ has been actively involved with the Township on this issue for years, mostly relative to the State Disposal Landfill. Discussions had been ongoing with Waste Management long before the PFOS issue related to Wolverine Worldwide surfaced. The Township will absolutely keep the pressure on both regulators to help resolve these issues and welcome public pressure on those agencies on this subject as well.
Will you publish each round of UCMR4 testing results ASAP after you receive them (first round in June)?
Yes. The Township believes in transparency on this issue. The first round of sampling for UCMR4 testing is scheduled to begin in December 2018. The final round of sampling will take place in October 2020. We will release results as we receive them during that time.
Will you join us in requesting a municipal water town hall with MDEQ? Questions can be sent ahead of time, so that answers are prepared by the time of the town hall.
The Township plans to hold a round table discussion on Jan. 29 from 6 – 9 p.m. to address resident questions. Our goal will be to answer as many as possible and gather additional questions that need input from the DEQ and EPA. We can then ask the regulators to join us for a follow-up meeting. The idea is that the more focused the questions for MDEQ are, the more likely satisfactory dialogue can be promoted.
When did the search for a new well field begin, and what is the status of this project?
We began searching for a new well field in 2016 after we stopped drawing water from the Versluis well field. Since Versluis historically supplied water only during high-demand times, we have been able to rely on our remaining two well fields. Our search for new well fields continues, although it has been complicated by recent findings of PFAS in areas throughout the Township. We remain focused on finding a new well field and installing a filtration system at our municipal water treatment plant that will bring our PFAS levels to zero.
What testing and analysis will be done before constructing a new well field, and will this information be shared with the public before construction begins?
We began the process of searching for a new well field in 2016 after securing permission from Township Trustees. We secured board approval to hire Prein & Newhof to assist us with this process.
To start the process, engineers looked at records of the existing wells in the area we are considering in order to evaluate their geology. Once potential sites are determined, we will ask Prien & Newhof to determine how much groundwater might be available. When we identify a site that is feasible, we must then secure the appropriate permits from the DEQ before drilling a well and pumping water to see if we have both the volume and quality of water needed. Simultaneously, we would do sampling to ensure we do not have PFAS or other contaminants in the water.
If the well identified meets our standards to go into production, we would then start the engineering process to build out the water mains in order to pump the water back to the treatment plant. This phase would also need to be permitted from the DEQ. The Board of Trustees will be asked to review and approve any expenditures in a public meeting.
Will the agreement between Waste Management and other potential responsible parties for the cost of the proposed $400,000 water treatment plant filtering system and the cost of the new well field be made available to the public after negotiations are complete, and before it is signed? What is the status of the proposed $400,000 water treatment plant filtering system? Is the township getting the cooperation needed from MDEQ for review of that plan?
During a December meeting, the Township committed to spend $400,000 to install a filtration system in our water treatment plant that is designed to remove even trace amounts of PFAS. We have asked the DEQ for permission to install this system and are in the process of selecting a vendor to install the system. Prein & Newhof is working with the DEQ to get us approval as quick as possible. Potential settlement agreements with any responsible party will be approved by the Board at a public meeting, where citizen input will be accepted.
If the proposed $400,000 water treatment plant filtering system is a temporary solution, how long will this solution be effective for us? What is the long-term solution and do we have a cost for that yet?
The initial $400,000 approved by the Township should cover the installation of the new filter in the west half of our water treatment plant, which will be faster and easier to install than in the east half.
After we have time to evaluate the ability of the system to remove the trace amounts of PFAS, we will evaluate the next step in the process. It may be that duplicating the filter media replacement in the east half of the plant is the answer. This would require significant modifications to that half of the plant to accommodate the new media. Conversely, it may require us to consider alternative treatment methods. We do not yet have a definitive cost for that, as it is still unknown.
Once the project receives the green light from the DEQ and a vendor is selected, we will know more about ongoing maintenance costs. We will share that information in a public meeting at that time.
Why is Plainfield Township borrowing money to extend water to Algoma Township? Why does Plainfield have our lawyer arranging this, surely it should be Algoma’s lawyer doing this?
“ Plainfield’s” lawyer is also the lawyer for our municipal water system, which serves portions of Alpine, Grand Rapids and Algoma townships as well as, of course, Plainfield Township. The bonds are issued by the Township but are to be repaid by the customers of the System, including those in other townships AND the corporate responsible parties.
The Township’s general fund is not used to repay these costs and would never be so used barring some completely unexpected problem. There is a difference between bonding and paying the contractors for the work so that it is system-owned. The ultimate party paying for costs of the bond repayment, which for the House Street-related extensions, should be the corporations responsible for the contamination causing the need for the extensions.
Do you have a water filtration system at the Township Hall?
No. There are no special filters at the Township Hall nor at any other Township facility, nor do any of our Trustees who use the municipal water system have any special precautions in their homes. There is a sand and carbon filter system currently in the treatment process at the Township WTP. However, that system will not remove PFAS. Inserting activated carbon into that filter system will remove most, if not all, trace elements of PFOA/PFOS in our well water for all customers on the system, including Township Hall and the homes of Township officials and employees.
What was the Township’s initial response to the discovery of PFAS in its municipal water?
It’s tempting to view the past through the lens of information we have at our hands today. The Township has always – and will always – act immediately when a health concern is raised about our drinking water. We first found out in 2013 that our municipal tap water tested positive for PFOS near 60 ppt. At the time, this was well below the 200 ppt advisory level from the EPA – and well before PFOS and PFOA were making headlines locally. Three years later, the EPA lowered its PFOA/PFOS advisory level to 70 ppt after problems began surfacing around the country, including the former Wurthsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. We then took action by doing further analysis on our water supply to locate the source of the contamination. Once it was determined that the bulk of the PFAS was coming in through the Versluis well field, it was shut down and has not been used since. Next, the Township took immediate steps to search for a new, clean well field to replace Versluis. Since Versluis historically supplied water only during high-demand times, we were able to rely on our remaining two wellfields. Our search for new well fields continue, although it has been complicated by recent findings of PFAS in areas throughout the Township. We remain focused on finding a new well field and installing a filtration system at our municipal water treatment plant that will bring our PFOA/PFOS levels to non-detect.
What progress has the Township made in addressing resident safety?
The Township Board and our employees have always taken water quality seriously. In addition to the actions outlined above in Q2, we have also been working to install an activated carbon filtration system on our municipal system that would further reduce trace elements of PFOA/PFOS. While the EPA has set a health advisory level of 70 ppt of PFOA/PFOS for drinking water, we were not satisfied until we could provide the best possible water to our residents. We are working toward that goal and have made significant progress since Trustees approved $400,000 for the new system in December. As our attorney Doug Van Essen said at the Jan. 8 Trustee meeting, “We are making healthy progress on all fronts.”
Is testing being done at the superfund site and Boulder Creek to see if contaminants are leaking?
The MDEQ oversees the investigation of possible groundwater contamination occurring from those two sites. The Township has no authority to compel testing at either location. We know that there is semi-annual testing done by Waste Management at the former municipal landfill site that they own and the surrounding area. We have brought the Boulder Creek issue up to the MDEQ, and our understanding is that the MDEQ is addressing testing with Wolverine. The MDEQ will advise us if the results of any such testing could have a possible impact on the Township’s operations.
Are the two quotes for the municipal filtration system in line with expectations outlined in December?
Yes. From a short-term perspective, the $400,000 allocated in December should cover the costs of installation. We are moving as expeditiously as possible on the permitting and installation of that additional filtering. As we said in December, there will be additional operational and maintenance costs for the system going forward.
Are schools testing their water?
Yes. Our understanding is that schools who utilize well water have tested their water for PFAS and determined that it is safe for students to drink. Schools that rely on Plainfield municipal water know that their drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal standards for clean, safe drinking water.
Will the Township be proactive about testing for all possible contaminants, not just the 90 mandated by the EPA?
We’ve heard some confusion over what is – and what is not – being tested for when it comes to municipal water, so we want to address the question here. As a municipal water system, Plainfield Township routinely tests our water to make sure that it is safe and clean to drink, cook with and bathe in. We run a multitude of tests on our water daily, weekly, monthly and annually. We test for more than 100 contaminants as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act on a regular, ongoing basis – these include bacteria like E. coli or Giardia and metals like lead or copper. The contaminants that are required to be tested by the Federal and state government have been chosen after discussion with doctors, environmentalists, scientists and public health authorities from across the United States as being the most likely to be of concern in a public water source. You can see the complete list by clicking here.
We routinely report our results to the State of Michigan in a monthly operations report. If any test results are not in compliance with regulations, we immediately notify the MDEQ. Test results for sampling done on a less frequent basis than monthly (i.e. quarterly, annually, etc.) are submitted to the MDEQ when we receive them.
We also test for unregulated contaminants specified by the Environmental Protection Agency on a 5-year basis. This is in compliance with the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) where the EPA is trying to learn more about “emerging” contaminants. While not a comforting name, emerging contaminants means that our collective scientific understanding of them is evolving. The EPA may eventually set guidelines based on the results that water systems, like Plainfield, provide. Based on our results of the UCMR testing, we may elect to do additional testing, as we do with PFOS and PFOA.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a single test that tells us what is – and is not – in our water. Such a test does not exist. Rather, we conduct a broad range of tests to determine what is present – and each test requires a new sample of water. It’s impossible to take a single water sample, subject it to a multitude of tests and come up with a simple answer.
We rely on guidance from the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to determine what we need to test for. For example, each time we test for arsenic, none is detected. In other parts of Michigan, though, it shows up regularly in water systems. So, based on our past test results (non-detects), the state has determined that we need to only test for arsenic every nine years. However, we plan to test for arsenic every five to seven years.
There are currently more than 135 million organic and inorganic substances listed on the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstract Service Registry, making it impossible to test for every substance out there. In light of community concerns, we are evaluating an expansion of the kinds of substances we regularly test for in our water.
Why are you not testing for PFAS in my area?
The investigation of the groundwater contamination is being led by the MDEQ. They oversee sampling, testing and getting the test results in order to determine the extent of the contamination. If the testing is expanded into your area, the MDEQ or their representative will contact you. To contact the Environmental Assistance hotline, call 1-800-662-9278.
What did you know and when did you know it?
It’s tempting to view the past through the lens of information we have at our hands today. The Township has always – and will always – act immediately when a health concern is raised about our drinking water.
We first found out in 2013 that our water tested positive for PFOS at 60 ppt. At the time, this was well below the 200 ppt advisory level from the EPA – and well before PFOS and PFOA were making headlines.
Two years later, the EPA lowered its health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA to 70 ppt after problems began surfacing around the country, including the former Wurthsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. We then took action by doing further analysis on our water supply to locate the source of the contamination. Once it was determined that the PFAS was coming in through the Versluis well field, it was shut down and has not been used since.
Next, the Township took immediate steps to search for a new, clean well field to replace Versluis. Since Versluis historically supplied water only during high-demand times, we were able to rely on our remaining two well fields. Our search for new well fields continue, although it has been complicated by recent findings of PFAS in areas throughout the Township.
We remain focused on finding a new well field and installing a filtration system at our municipal water treatment plant that will bring our PFAS levels to zero.
Isn’t the Rogue River Campground where you are talking about the expansion of well fields?
The Township’s engineers are exploring a number of areas for a new well field. However, the discovery of PFAS along the Rogue River have lead the team to continue exploring other areas for the next well field.
What are the test results of the soil testing from the Rogue River Campground? What did you test for?
As a part of the Department of Natural Resources grant process, Plainfield Township was required to conduct a baseline environmental assessment of the property before the property could be purchased. The assessment discovered a small contaminated area, which had been used as a burn site, that revealed elevated levels of a number of substances in the soil. Elevated levels of zinc were found in the groundwater. Therefore, as a condition of purchasing the property, the contaminated soil must be removed and properly disposed of in a landfill. The process would be overseen by the DEQ.
What is the Township doing for businesses being negatively impacted by the water issue?
Plainfield Township currently provides safe, clean drinking water that exceeds all EPA and DEQ standards. However, in response to resident concerns that we remove all traces of PFAS, we are installing a filtration system at our municipal water plant so we can provide the best possible water to our customers and the customers of businesses using Plainfield water. The Northeast Business Association is a great resource for business owners to come together. You can learn more about them here.
What is the Township doing to respond to resident questions?
We have created a weekly newsletter that is emailed to keep residents updated on the water issue, including a section that addresses specific resident concerns and questions. You can sign up for the newsletter on the homepage of our website at plainfieldmi.org
Have you received results of the 11 wells tested?
On Dec. 21, 2017, our municipal Water Treatment Plant received the results of our most recent PFAS sampling. We reduced the sum of PFOS and PFOA in our treated water once again; it now stands at 6.8 ppt, well below the new DEQ limit of 70 ppt established in January 2018.
How and where have you added capacity since the Versluis well field has been shut down?
It’s important to note that the Versluis well field was only used in times of high-demand, such as summer months when people watered their lawns or filled their swimming pools. Since we shut down the Verlsuis well field in 2016, we have been searching for a new well field. This search has been complicated by the emergence of contaminants across a wider area of the Township, prompting us to look further out. Our engineers are now exploring other areas for a new well field.
With summer coming, will you post warnings to swimmers and fisherman about PFAS? Can you post signs the by the river in Belmont warning about eating the fish?
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been studying the health effects of PFAS skin contact and has taken fish from Versluis Lake to test for PFAS. At this time, DDHS has no concern about the PFAS levels in Versluis Lake or its fish and has advised the Township that no notice is necessary.
Has the Township’s lawyer contacted Wolverine Worldwide about getting blood drawn? Will the Township set up a site to test blood?
Wolverine Worldwide has not chosen to pay for blood tests. We would direct you to the Centers for Disease Control and its Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which has a page on PFAS blood testing:
“If you are concerned and choose to have your blood tested, test results will tell you how much of each PFAS is in your blood but it is unclear what the results mean in terms of possible health effects. The blood test will not provide information to pinpoint a health problem nor will it provide information for treatment. The blood test results will not predict or rule-out the development of future health problems related to a PFAS exposure.”
“Remember that PFAS are found in the blood of humans and animals worldwide. Most people in the United States have one or more specific PFAS in their blood, especially PFOS and PFOA.”
The process of constructing a large diameter water main under a major highway is not a simple process. It involves extensive surveying of the existing conditions, numerous soil testing to determine the soil types that will be encountered, determination of the exact crossing location, preparation of design plans and permitting with both the MDEQ and the Department of Transportation. Once this is all completed, the project is bid and a contractor is determined. Once the construction begins, the time frame for completion is typically two to three months.
Is my tap water safe?
Plainfield Township Water Department is committed to providing superior quality water that meets or exceeds the high safety standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Act sets forth a rigorous scientific process to set standards for drinking water quality. Our skilled water professionals work tirelessly to fulfill the standards and protect public health and safety.
Why are private companies going door to door asking to test homeowners’ water?
These companies are in the business of selling water treatment systems. They may make false or misleading claims about the quality of communities’ drinking water. For example, one mailing implies that the tap water in a particular area contains contaminants when in fact the water meets all regulatory requirements. Such misleading information is designed to create concerns among water customers and convince them to invest in a home treatment system.
Will I be obligated to buy some filtering equipment if I agree to have my water tested?
Do not sign or agree to anything that requires you to buy a filter or other home treatment device as a condition of testing water. If you are considering purchasing a water filter or other home treatment device, we encourage you to make a fully informed decision. Plainfield Township Water Department staff, who are not motivated by sale of equipment, are available to offer advice or assistance on any drinking water question or issue. If you decide to purchase a water treatment device, make sure it is certified to address the issue of concern to you. NSF International is an independent organization that certifies home treatment devices. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure the device is properly installed and maintained.
Does my public water provider also provide testing services?
Your water is tested and checked constantly by Plainfield Township Water Department. We want the people we serve to know as much as possible about their water quality. This information is available on the Township Web site in the form of a yearly Water Quality Report. The more informed you are about tap water quality, the more confidence you will have in it.
What is the process for testing my water?
The customer can call the Water Treatment Plant at 616-364-7174 or Water Distribution at 616-363-9660. An appointment can be made for Water Department staff to visit your residence. In most cases, an appointment may not be necessary and an explanation over the phone with one of our trained staff will suffice. In cases where our testing is sent to another laboratory, you will be informed of those results.
How can I be sure the test results by the companies offering to test my water are accurate?
Water testing is a scientific process based on rigorous criteria, which Plainfield Township Water Department is certified to conduct as part of its water delivery system. Our water professionals have been trained in current nationally recommended standards and procedures and our testing only uses state certified laboratories. It may be difficult for independent companies to provide the same assurance of accuracy as a certified laboratory that uses state of the art equipment and employs professionals with years of experience, training and specialized scientific knowledge.
Since my water comes from the same treatment facility as my neighbors, won’t all the test results be the same?
Not necessarily, since water quality not only relies on how it is treated before it is distributed, but also on the condition of the pipes that deliver the water to a home or business. Some pipes in older homes or buildings, for example, may affect the quality of the water that eventually comes out of the tap. If you have concerns about the quality of your tap water, contact Plainfield Township Water Department and speak with one of our water quality professionals.
How can I find out more about my water quality?
Contact us at (616) 364-7174, (616) 363-9660 or click here to see our latest report on water quality.
Where does Plainfield water come from?
Plainfield Township Water Department gets its excellent quality raw water from sixteen wells located in three separate well fields. These wells vary in size, and can pump from 600 gallons of water per minute to 1450 gallons of water per minute, for a total raw water supply capacity of approximately 24 million gallons a day!
This raw water supply is pumped to and treated by our 16 million gallon per day capacity water plant to meet every federal and state requirement for safe drinking water. In 2011, we supplied 1.26 billion gallons of safe, clean drinking water to our customers. Our minimum daily pumpage was 1.68 million gallons of water. Our average daily pumpage was 3.45 million gallons per day.
The Water Treatment Plant is a full treatment, lime softening facility. In the water distribution system, there are over 200 miles of water main, over 9,000 water meters, and over 2,000 valves and 2,000 hydrants. There are 14 water tanks ranging in capacity from 200,000 gallons to 4 million gallons of water. These tanks provide pressure and stored water for fire protection. Five pump stations move water to our tanks and four pressure districts. We provide water to over 40,000 residents located in Plainfield Township, Alpine Township, portions of Grand Rapids Township, Algoma Township, as well as a small part of the city of Walker.
In 1983, the EPA put an institutional boundary in part of Plainfield Township, which included Versluis. When the DEQ was spoken with, they said there was not supposed to be any wells in that area/within the institutional boundary. Why did we have public wells in an area where there wasn't supposed to be any wells?
The Versluis well field was established in its location long before the Institutional Control Boundary was put in place. At the same time the Institutional Control Boundary was put in place for the delineated plume from the State Disposal Landfill, Waste Management was also required to provide Plainfield Township with equipment to remove the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the Versluis Well Field. While the Versluis Well Field remained in operation after that time, it was monitored closely and treated continuously for VOCs when it operated, which was only during the peak summer months.
When will you have a plan for a different water source?
As we have shared, we are continuing to look for a new well field to replace the former Versluis Well field. At this time, we do not anticipate the new well field being a replacement for our existing East and West Well fields. Moreover, we are also working with the Michigan DEQ to get an approved permit so that we can move forward with the installation of the additional granulated active carbon (GAC) filtration system for the Township. With the GAC, we firmly believe our drinking water sources will be superior and contain less contaminants than a surface water sourced system would have. Keep in mind that even without the GAC filter, our WTP produces a product that has been determined to be safe by all of the regulators and the health department.
It's not just about PFAS and PFOA now. We're looking at North Kent Landfill where we have found a high concentration of Benzene. We want more - we want additional testing. We want to know what's in our water now, and then after the filtration unit. Can that be done?
We do test for Benzene every year and we have never detected it in our water. Although we are not required to include in our annual water quality report all the contaminants we test for and do not find in our water, we may consider compiling such a list for future reports. You can see our most recent water quality report here. You can see a complete list of the regulated chemicals we test for here.
I understand that you are only going to be able to retrofit one side of the water treatment plant, so is that going to be able to treat all of the water or is that going to only treat half of it during that time?
We will be able to provide up to 8 million gallons of water per day through the new filtration system, which is more than enough capacity for most of the year. However, if the system demand exceeds that this summer, we may need to also utilize the existing filters to supplement the demand. We may be able to retrofit both sides of the water treatment plant, but we plan to begin with retrofitting the side of our plant that is easiest to retrofit. This will allow us to install the new filtration system within 30-60 days and begin documenting the effectiveness for removing PFAS. We can then look at retrofitting the other side of the plant, which will require more time and expense
Can you be more proactive and do more than just what the EPA and DEQ requires?
From the start Plainfield Township has been proactive by taking steps that were not required by the EPA or DEQ, including quarterly testing for PFAS which is not required by any agency. Additionally, Plainfield is working on filtration to remove the trace amounts of PFAS that are a fraction of the levels that the EPA and DEQ consider to be safe.
We are providing a safe, clean drinking water source that meets or exceeds all requirements of the EPA and the MDEQ. We do test for more than is required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Remember, the EPA and DEQ determine their lists of what should be tested based on national and state experiences as to what is dangerous and what is likely to be present in any measurable amounts. There is a "science" behind these lists.
Once the filtration system is put in place for the municipal water, how are you going to monitor it? Is it going to be on a monthly basis, weekly basis? How are the Township residents going to be assured that there are no more contaminants that are harmful to them?
As part of the permit application process we are providing a plan to the MDEQ for sampling and testing our water to monitor the effectiveness of the granular activated carbon filter system for various contaminants. That plan will most likely involve some weekly testing initially and may move to monthly as the treatment is proven effective. We plan to make the testing results available.
How many of the Board members contacted anyone at the state level regarding this issue? Has the board collectively as a group or independently contacted state legislatures to see what kind of help can be provided to Plainfield Township and what they are going to do for us?
Yes, Plainfield Township has worked very closely with our state Senator and Representatives to advocate for our residents on a state level as well as address needed public policy. Because of potential legal issues, as reflected in the current lawsuit involving the MDEQ and Wolverine Worlds Wide, our legal counsel is coordinating our official communications with the State, MDEQ, WWW and Waste Management
Does the annual water quality report list all of the contaminants that are tested? If not, can we get a complete list of what's tested and the results?
Although we are not required to include in our annual water quality report all the contaminants we test for and do not find in our water, we may consider compiling such a list for future reports. Also, any contaminants that are detected in our water for the year must be included in the annual report. You can see our most recent water quality report here. You can see a complete list of the regulated chemicals we test for here.
When can we expect to see the water quality report for 2017?
The annual water quality report is required to be available by July 1. We typically have the report complete by June 15.
Why are you spending money on a PR firm?
While the firm we are working with has public relations in its name, Sabo PR is a full-service communications firm that we have worked with on a project basis since 2015. Accurate, timely and efficient communication with our residents has always been a top priority, but as the scope of the water situation has grown, this task has become more difficult to maintain due to increasing duties and responsibilities on our staff.
From the beginning, many of our residents requested better communication from the Township, including being provided with timely updates and answers to ongoing questions. In response to this request, we called on our relationship with this firm in an effort to provide as up-to-date information as possible in an effective, efficient and timely manner, including logistics and production of the newsletter, website and social media updates. The firm does not "spin" the information provided, but instead works closely with our experts to secure the answers to resident questions and concerns in effort to be shared as timely as possible. This allows our Township staff to continue to diligently focus on finding solutions to the issue we are all facing.
We hope that you have seen improvement in the timeliness, method and style of communications that the Township is undertaking as this situation is unfolding. Sabo PR has helped the Township to implement these changes, and we hope to even further improve the effectiveness of our communications so you can get the substance you need and want.
How do residents dispose of their home carbon filter media cartridges once they need to be replaced? What does the Township plan to do with its carbon filter media once it needs to be replaced?
The Township does not oversee the installation, operation or maintenance of any home carbon filter systems. Residents should consult with the manufacturer or supplier of their specific system on disposal of the spent cartridges.
When the granular activated carbon (GAC) that the Township is planning to install in its water treatment plant is in need of replacement, the supplier who provides the new GAC will first remove the existing GAC and haul it away to its facility. The supplier then treats the GAC by heating it in a controlled furnace to more than 1,700°F where the PFAS is removed, the waste is properly disposed of and the carbon can be re-activated. The replacement process will be handled completely by the GAC supplier.