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DEQ and DHHS Team Up to Address PFAS Questions at Flint Legislators' Townhall

March 13, 2019

More than 60 residents were on hand as representatives from the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) provided historical perspective and addressed Flint-area resident's concerns about PFAS at a recent townhall. Michigan State Representatives John Cherry (D-Flushing), Sheryl Kennedy (D-Clio), Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), and Tim Sneller (D-Burton) hosted the townhall meeting, which took place at Mott Community College.

PFAS Cycle DiagramAlthough Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination has not been found in drinking water, residents expressed concerns about PFAS found in soils, rivers, and landfills in the area.  To provide information and educate the community, several DEQ divisions including Water Resources, Remediation and Redevelopment (RRD), Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance and Waste Management, Radiologic Protection, and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), as well as DHHS held an open house style forum. Prior to the meeting, residents were able to ask questions and talk one-on-one with department experts.

As part of the townhall, MPART Executive Director Steve Sliver provided a brief overview of the history of PFAS in Michigan. According to Sliver, the investigation of potential sources of PFAS in the Flint River began in 2012. Tributaries to the Flint River were also sampled at that time, revealing levels in Gilkey Creek that exceeded Water Quality Standards. View the full presentation.

Paul Bucholtz of RRD presented an overview of DEQ actions at the landfill located at Bishop Airport.  He referenced concerns with water seeping out of the landfill into a ditch and into Swartz Creek, which resulted in the City of Flint investigating the landfill leachate. The City's report was finalized in 2013 and led to the state-funded next step of determining appropriate actions, including installation of a protective barrier (cap) for the landfill. Recent groundwater monitoring included analyzing for PFAS, which was found in the shallow aquifer at 15 to 20 feet below ground surface.

To ensure the safety of private wells, which provide water for a majority of residents in the area, DEQ shared plans to investigate groundwater flow, as well as test for potential PFAS. The private wells typically draw water from a deep aquifer of 90 to 210 feet below ground surface. According to DEQ experts, a thick layer of clay at 50 to 70 feet below ground surface acts as a barrier between the shallow and deep aquifers, and PFAS is not expected to have penetrated the deep bedrock groundwater aquifer. In order to confirm this expectation, the DEQ plans to install several wells into this deep bedrock aquifer used for drinking water. On Friday, March 8, sampling began with one residential shallow drinking water well.

The DEQ also shared plans to continue working with the City of Flint, Genesee County, the Genesee County Health Department, DHHS, and the Genesee County Airport Authority as the investigation moves forward.

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