Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA), Grand Rapids, Kent County

Updated: August 15, 2019

Gerald R Ford PFAS Investgation mapBackground

This site has operated as an airport since the 1960s and from then until the mid-1990s federally required firefighting training activities were performed on-site on the northeast side of the property using PFAS containing aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). Training has occurred at other airports since the mid-1990s. Lesser volumes (10-15 gallons) of AFFF have been used annually at the “ARFF and Ramp 5” pad locations for required testing of firefighting response equipment. The locations of two historic emergency response events where AFFF was used are not known.

Recent Accomplishments

  • On August 14, 2019, GFIA provided EGLE Remediation and Redevelopment Division (RRD) a work plan for additional on-site PFAS investigation.
  • GFIA is now able to test their firefighting emergency response equipment using Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved practices that do not require AFFF to be dispensed onto the ground. Therefore, AFFF use at GFIA is required now only during actual firefighting emergency response events.

Next Steps

  • EGLE RRD will review the GFIA on-site work plan prior to GFIA proceeding with the work.
  • EGLE will continue to collaborate with GFIA regarding on-site and off-site investigations.
  • GFIA will execute their short-term stormwater characterization study.

Residential Well Testing/Alternate Water Information

  • Most homes in Cascade Township neighborhoods east and northeast of airport property are supplied with well water.
  • 28 residential wells have been tested by GFIA; 22 independent residential well test results have been communicated to EGLE.
  • For additional information on residential well testing and results, visit the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • EGLE has sampled all municipal water supplies for PFAS. View the results for the city of Grand Rapids.

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

Deep Groundwater Apr 2018 -
Aug 2018
22 22 2 20 0

Shallow Groundwater

May 2018 -
Aug 2018
9 9 0 8 1

Residential Wells

Jul 2018 -
Aug 2018

28 28 27 1 0
Independent
Residential Wells
Apr 2018 -
Oct 2018
22 22 11 11 0
Surface Water Aug 2018 -
Sep 2018
5 5 0 5 0
Soil May 2018 - 
Nov 2019
114 114 36 78 55
Cumulative   200 200 76 123 56



*Groundwater results are compared to EGLE Part 201 Criteria of 70 ppt.
*Residential well results are compared to the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 ppt.
*Soil results are compared to EGLE Part 201 Criteria of 240 ppt PFOS and 10 million ppt PFOA.
*Surface water results compared to EGLE Rule 57 non-drinking water values of 12 ppt PFOS and 12000 ppt PFOA.
*Other PFAS analytes were detected in samples. There are no federal or state standards for these analytes.

Sampling notes

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

Gerald R. Ford International Airport Historical Timeline

Located at 5500 44th Street, SW in Grand Rapids, GFIA has operated as an airport since the 1960s and from then until the mid-1990s, federally required firefighting training activities were performed on-site on the northeast side of the property using PFAS-containing aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). Training has occurred at other airports since the mid-1990s. Lesser volumes (10 – 15 gallons) of AFFF have been used annually at the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF) building and Ramp 5. The locations of two historical emergency response events where AFFF was used are not known.

A thick layer of clay beneath the FFTA investigation area was found between the surface and deep groundwater. Deep (beneath clay layer) groundwater flow direction in the FFTA investigation area is north/northeast. Shallow (above clay layer) perched groundwater has been identified in the FFTA investigation area. Surface water drainage flows to multiple locations off airport property toward either the Thornapple River (east) or Plaster Creek (west). Surface water in the vicinity of the FFTA, ARFF and Ramp 5 flows toward the Thornapple River. Results for recent surface water sampling from surrounding tributaries and the Thornapple River does not indicate PFAS detections above surface water quality standards.

  • In March 2018, Wood TV 8 (Grand Rapids) released a news report identifying that the GFIA used PFAS containing AFFF for mostly training purposes for many years on GFIA property, which is uphill from many homes on residential drinking water wells.
  • In April 2018 - October 2018, independent drinking water well test results were communicated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (EGLE). Results were below 70 parts per trillion (ppt) PFOS+PFOA. The largest total PFAS communicated was 96 ppt.
  • In April 2018, GFIA began Phase 1 of an on-site PFAS investigation in the vicinity of the former firefighting training area, with installation of five deep groundwater monitoring wells. Shallow groundwater samples were collected when groundwater was encountered. Phase 1 also included the collection of many surface soil samples.
  • In April 2018, GFIA, EGLE, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and Kent County Health Department (KCHD) began recurring collaborative meetings.
  • In June 2018, EGLE received the interim report on Phase 1 groundwater findings from GFIA. Results were below 70 ppt PFOS+PFOA. The highest total PFAS was 487 ppt.
  • In July 2018, EGLE received the interim report on Phase 1 soil findings. Results showed that multiple locations exceeded the criteria for PFOS for soil protective of the groundwater-surface water interface (GSI).
  • In July 2018, GFIA began Phase 2 of the on-site PFAS investigation, which included the installation and sampling of three new deep groundwater monitoring wells, collection of additional deep and shallow groundwater samples, and collection of soil samples in the vicinity of Ramp 5 and the ARFF.
  • In July 2018, GFIA began sampling residential drinking water wells. GFIA contacted 44 property owners offering drinking water well sampling. 28 property owners agreed. Results were 27 non-detects and one detection had total PFAS of 12 ppt and non-detect for both PFOA and PFOS.
  • In August and September 2018, EGLE Water Quality Division collected surface water samples from tributaries near GFIA as well as the Thornapple River. At all locations, results showed detections of PFAS below Rule 57 water quality standards.
  • On September 5, 2018, EGLE , MDHHS, GFIA, and KCHD participated in a public meeting with residents and other public to discuss the PFAS investigation in the area.
  • On September 26, 2018, GFIA issued a press release informing the public of the residential drinking water results.
  • In October 2018, EGLE received the report on Phase 2 investigation findings. Results showed one shallow groundwater sample collected from the former fire training area investigation above70 ppt PFOS+PFOA at 973 ppt. Total PFAS was 3,364 ppt.
  • In October 2018, GFIA issued a letter informing EGLE, MDHHS, and the KCHD that no additional investigation is required into nearby residential neighborhoods and that the on-site investigation will continue.
  • In January 2019, GFIA performed additional soil sampling around the “ARFF” and “Ramp 5” locations.
  • In January 2019, EGLE completed an internal geologic review to determine potential migration patterns. Staff recommendations include conducting additional residential drinking water sampling along the Unnamed Tributary as well as additional on-site investigation.
  • In January 2019, EGLE’s review recommendations were communicated to GFIA.
  • In February 2019, EGLE procured state funding to perform residential drinking water well sampling per recommendations from EGLE’s geologic review.
  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has developed a residential drinking water well sampling plan, timeline and other project resources. Progress will be tracked as an Area of Interest on the MPART website.
  • EGLE Water Resources Division issued GFIA a letter summarizing their agreement to conduct a Short-Term Storm Water Characterization Study (SWSWCS) to ensure that discharges meet water quality standards for PFAS.
  • In April 2019, EGLE requested submission of interim soil data collected around the ARFF and Ramp 5.
  • In April 2019, EGLE Remediation and Redevelopment Division (RRD) issued GFIA a letter requesting a written work plan by the end of May for how GFIA will continue its on-site PFAS investigation
  • On May 16, Senator Brinks hosted a Town Hall Town Hall in East Grand Rapids where EGLE presented the status of GFIA’s on-site and off-site PFAS investigation.
  • On May 16, 2019, GFIA submitted the Soil Sampling at ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Firefighting) and Ramp 5 report. Data shows that PFOS exceeds soil protective of GSI criteria in 24 surficial soil samples (0' - 6' below ground surface). In total, 46 samples were collected.
  • On May 24, GFIA submitted their short-term stormwater characterization study (STSWCS) plan to EGLE Water Resource Division (WRD) and subsequently approved by WRD.
  • On May 30, 2019 GFIA responded to EGLE Remediation and Redevelopment Division’s (RRD) April letter highlighting their recent accomplishments and that they will not be submitting a workplan for how they will continue their on-site PFAS investigation to RRD at this time.
  • In a July 12 letter, GFIA committed to provide EGLE Remediation and Redevelopment Division a plan for additional on-site investigation by August 15.