Carl's Retreading, Grawn, Grand Traverse County

Carl's Retreading sampling area map in Grand Traverse CountyUpdated: February 28, 2019


This site is located at 5175 Sawyer Woods Drive in the city of Grawn. The site consists of approximately four acres formerly used as a tire storage area by the now-bankrupt Carl’s Tire Retreading Company in the 1980s and 1990s. In December 1995, a fire occurred at the site that burned for over 20 days. Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) was used in an attempt to put out the fire, but ultimately the tires were buried to put out the flames.

Recent Accomplishments

  • There are no recent accomplishments within the last month.  

Next Steps

  • The MDEQ will install permanent monitoring wells adjacent to the site in the spring and will begin collecting quarterly groundwater samples starting in the first quarter of 2019 to determine if there are any seasonal variations in PFAS concentrations.

Residential Well Testing/Alternate Water Information

  • Twelve households have been provided bottled water by the Grand Traverse County Health Department (GTHD).
  • The same 12 households have been provided filters by the GTHD.
  • For additional information on residential well testing and results, visit the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The MDEQ has sampled all municipal water supplies for PFAS. View the results for the city of Saline.

Upcoming Community Engagement

None scheduled at this time.

Sampling: PFOS and PFOA Only

Type of Sample

Date Sampled

Number of Samples

Number of Results Received

Number of Non-detects

Number Between Non-detect and standard*

Number of > Standard


Apr 30 -
May 31, 2018
33 33 13 15 5
Drinking Water (residential
Type I & II)
Jul 18 -
Sep 26, 2018
30 28 24 4 0
Cumulative   63 61 37 19 5

*Groundwater results are compared to the MDEQ Part 201 Criteria of 70 ppt.
*Surface water results are compared to Rule 57 surface water quality values of 12 ppt (PFOS) and 12,000 ppt (PFOA).

Sampling notes

  • Other PFAS analytes were detected in samples. There are no federal or state standards for these analytes.

Carl’s Retreading Historical Timeline

The Carl’s Retreading site is located at 5175 Sawyer Woods Drive in the city of Grawn. The site is approximately four acres, 900 feet west of the Blair Elementary School.  Land use in the vicinity is residential/rural/light industrial. Drinking water in the area is provided by a mixture of private wells, community (Type II) wells for individual subdivisions and for Blair Elementary School, and the township’s water supply system.Cox Pond and Beitner Creek are located 1/3 mile to the north.

Carl's Retreading operated for several years as a scrap tire collection/recycling site. On December 29, 1995, a fire began in a tire shredding machine which then ignited scrap tires that were piled up to 30 feet high.  The fire burned for several weeks, during which time Blair Elementary School was closed and 62 residents were evacuated from their homes.The fire department initially tried using Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) to put out the fire but this proved ineffective.  Ultimately, the fire was extinguished by spraying it down with water and burying the burning tires utilizing heavy construction equipment.

After the fire was extinguished, Carl’s Retreading did not diligently address outstanding obligations under state environmental laws, such as the removal of partially burnt tires and remediation of the resulting soil and groundwater contamination.  This resulted in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) filing a complaint against the company and its owners in circuit court during the spring of 1998.  In October 1998, a Default Judgment was entered in Grand Traverse County Circuit Court holding Carl's Retreading and its partners liable for those activities. In 1999, Carl's Retreading abandoned the site and initiated bankruptcy proceedings. 

  • During the Fall of 2002 and Spring of 2003, approximately 36,000 tons of scrap tires were removed and hauled to a landfill utilizing state funds. Following the tire removal, approximately 86,000 tons of contaminated soil, ash, and tire debris was excavated and disposed of at a landfill. Other remediation activities occurred for the next few years.
  • In 2018, state-funded response activities were again initiated at the Carl’s Retreading site to evaluate whether the past application of AFFF on the tire fire resulted in PFAS contamination in the groundwater.
  • During May 2018, the MDEQ conducted a limited scope groundwater investigation in an area immediately downgradient of the Carl’s Retreading site to check for PFAS contamination. Five sampling locations (labeled A – E on the site map) were selected for vertical sampling of the aquifer down to 70 feet below ground surface. (During vertical sampling, a sample is taken every 10 feet). Analytical results were received for sample locations C, D, and E on June 1, 2018. PFAS was reported in all three of these samples.
    • At sample location C, the sample was collected at 36-40 feet below ground surface. The concentrations were reported at 60 ppt PFOA and 260 ppt PFOS.
    • At well B, one of the results had 92 ppt PFOA and 69 ppt PFOS.
  • On July 16, 2018, sampling of the drinking water at Blair Elementary School and one residence directly downgradient of the Carl’s Retreading site was completed. The school sample was non-detect for PFAS, and the residence was non-detect for PFOS+PFOA, however it did have 6 ppt Total Tested PFAS. Although detections were low, it was determined that the investigation should be expanded to sampling 41 residential drinking water wells further downgradient from the Carl’s Retreading site.
  • Between August and October 2018, a total of 30 samples were collected from residential wells. PFAS compounds other than PFOA and PFOS were detected in seven samples at low concentrations. PFOA and/or PFOS were detected in three samples, however, all were well below 70 ppt (the highest combination of PFOA and PFOS was 8 ppt).
  • On October 8, 2018, the GTHD along with Blair Township hosted a public engagement event at the Blair Township hall. The event was attended by approximately 25 residents from the impacted area, as well as three persons from media.
  • On November 14, 2018, the MDEQ’s project work plan was finalized. The work plan would include installation of permanent monitoring wells adjacent to the site and collection of quarterly groundwater samples beginning in the first quarter of 2019, in order to determine if there are any seasonal variations in PFAS concentrations.
  • On January 10, 2019, the contract with Fleis & VandenBrink Environmental Consultants was finalized.