Surface Water Workgroup

four wavy white lines indicating water

Mission:

To collect surface water and fish tissue samples to determine the need for fish consumption advisories, locate sources of PFAS contamination, and determine if treatment reduces PFAS levels.

The Surface Water Workgroup consists of representatives from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Remediation and Redevelopment Division and Water Resources Division (WRD) and representatives from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Recent Accomplishments:

  • On July 21, 2020, 18 surface water samples were collected in the Portage Creek area of Kalamazoo. No samples exceeded the water quality standards (WQS) for PFOS or PFOA.
  • On August 3 and 4, 2020, 27 surface water samples were collected in the Huron River watershed. Samples collected from Norton Creek, Willow Run, and Washago Pond exceeded the WQS for PFOS. PFOS concentrations in Norton Creek have continued to decline since July 2018 when it was measured at 5,600 ppt. Source-tracking continues in Willow Run and the Washago Pond area.
  • On August 11, 2020, 41 surface water samples were collected from the Ecorse River and Frank & Poet Drain watersheds. Several samples from both watersheds exceeded the WQS for PFOS. Future investigations to track the source(s) of contamination are being planned.
  • On August 20, 2020, surface water samples were collected from drains in the Ft. Gratiot/St. Clair county PFAS Area of Investigation. Seven of the 21 samples collected had PFOS concentrations exceeding the WQS and ranged from 18 ppt to 247 ppt. Further investigations are being planned to determine the source(s) of contamination.
  • On August 25, 2020, four surface water samples were collected from Regan Drain and the Huron River near Washago Pond in the Willow Metropark to confirm initial results from the August 3rd sampling event. Results confirmed that PFOS contamination exists in the Regan drain upstream of Washago Pond. Future investigations to track the source(s) of contamination were planned.

three images of staff on banks of streams reaching to collect a water sample

  • On August 27, 2020, surface water and sediment samples were collected from Little Black Creek and the Mona Lake watershed for PFAS analysis.  Surface water samples collected from Mona Lake ranged from 2.3 ppt to 14.7 ppt PFOS with the highest concentration exceeding the PFOS WQS. In Little Black Creek, six of the ten surface water samples exceeded the WQS for PFOS and ranged from 13.0 ppt to 37.6 ppt PFOS.
  • On September 3, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Bear River near Petoskey for PFAS analysis. PFOS was non-detect at all seven sampling locations in the Bear River watershed.
  • On September 3, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Burt Lake watershed near Pellston. PFOS was non-detect in 11 of the 14 samples collected from the Burt Lake watershed and less than two ppt in the other three samples. Fish were also collected from the west branch of the Maple River for PFAS analysis. The results for the fish analysis won't be available until 2021.
  • On September 21, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Shiawassee River watershed. All 60 samples had PFOS concentrations less than the PFOS WQS and ranged from non-detect to 11.4 ppt. 33 of the 60 collected samples had non-detectable concentrations of PFOS.
  • On October 14, 2020, additional sampling was conducted in the Regan Drain of the Huron River watershed to continue EGLEs PFAS source tracking investigation. Three sampling locations exceeded the WQS for PFOS. The highest concentration of PFOS (89 ppt) was in the Regan Drain near Burelle Avenue. Upstream of this location at South Huron Road, PFOS was 2.2 ppt. Further investigations are being planned to determine the source of contamination to the Regan Drain.
  • On October 19 and 20, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Rouge River watershed. Three samples in the Lower Rouge River watershed exceeded the PFOS WQS. PFOS was 429 ppt, 85 ppt, and 14.5 ppt in the Horner Drain, the Sines Drain, and the McClaughrey Drain, respectively. Further investigation is being planned to determine the sources of contamination to the Rouge River watershed. Fish collections are planned for the Lower Rouge River in 2021. MDHHS Eat Safe Fish advisories currently exist in the Lower and Main branch of the Rouge River due to PCBs and mercury. Anglers should visit the Eat Safe Fish page for south east Michigan for specific guidance.
  • Between November 7 and 10, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Escanaba River, Chocolay River, and Tacoosh-Whitefish River watersheds. All 13 surface water samples collected from the Escanaba River watershed were below the Rule 57 Water Quality Standards (WQS) for PFOS and less than 3 ppt. In the Chocolay River watershed, two samples from Silver Lead Creek exceeded the WQS for PFOS and ranged from 23 ppt to 28 ppt. In the Tacoosh-Whitefish River, a sample collected from Portage Creek had a PFOS concentration of 18 ppt and exceeded the PFOS WQS. EGLE plans to collect fish from the Escanaba River in 2021 to confirm the low surface water PFOS concentrations observed in 2020. A MDHHS Eat Safe Fish advisory currently exists for Silver Lead Creek due to PFOS. Anglers should visit the MPART Eat Safe Fish page for specific guidance.
  • On November 21, 2020, EGLE received PFAS results for the fish that were collected from the Huron River watershed, including Washago Pond. In the mainstem of the Huron River, PFOS concentrations in the fish fillets were lower than in 2017 and 2018 and similar to concentrations observed in 2019. MDHHS is reviewing the new data to determine if any change to the existing do not eat fish advisory is warranted. Pumpkinseed collected from Washago Pond had elevated PFOS concentrations ranging from non-detect to 110 parts per billion.
  • On November 25, 2020, EGLE collected additional samples further upstream in the Regan Drain of the Huron River watershed. Elevated surface water PFOS concentrations exceeding WQS were observed in the Regan south of S. Huron Rd.
  • On January 19, 2021, 14 surface water samples were collected from the Paw Paw River watershed. No samples exceeded the WQS for PFOS and PFOA. The highest PFOS concentration (11.7 ppt) was observed in Ox Creek near Benton Harbor. Fish sampling in Ox Creek is planned for summer of 2021.
  • On March 9, 2021, 26 surface water samples were collected from the upper Clinton River watershed. This sampling was initiated due to elevated PFOS observed in fish collected from Cass Lake and from the Clinton River upstream of the Yates Park dam. In addition, EGLE received a targeted monitoring request to sample the river near landfills located in Rochester Hills.  No surface water samples exceeded WQS for PFOS or PFOA. The highest PFOS concentration (9.4 ppt) was observed in the Whitehorse Lake outlet.

Assorted surface water (lake, river, outfall) sampling locations

  • On March 16, 2021, 3 surface water samples were collected from the Looking Glass River watershed near Community Lake Park near Portland. These samples were collected in response of a targeted monitoring request to investigate the use of an unknown class of firefighting foam used to extinguish a fire in the early 1990s. An unnamed tributary to the Looking Glass River at Cutler Rd had a PFOS concentration of 39.8 ppt which exceeds the WQS. The two samples collected from the Looking Glass River were below WQS and around 1 ppt for both PFOS and PFOA.
  • On March 16, 2021, 18 surface water samples were collected near Grass Lake in Jackson. This investigation was initiated following the receipt of results of fish samples collected from Grass Lake indicating elevated PFOS concentrations. All surface water samples from Grass Lake, Tims Lake, and the Grass Lake drain had non-detectable levels of PFOS and PFOA. Only PFBA (1.3 to 7.1 ppt), PFHpA (1.1 to 1.5 ppt), PFHxA (1.1 ppt), and PFPeA (0.7 to 5.2 ppt) were detected in these samples.
  • On March 23, 2021, surface water samples from three tributaries to the Grand River. Three surface water samples were collected from Egypt Creek near Ada to fulfill a targeted monitoring request to investigate a historical landfill situated along the creek. All three samples were non-detect for PFOS and PFOA. A sample was also collected from Indian Mill Creek and Plaster Creek in Grand Rapids at fish collection locations. The fish were sampled due to elevated PFOS concentrations observed in both tributaries during the 2019 Grand River watershed investigation. Neither sample exceeded the WQS for PFOS or PFOA. PFOS and PFOA in Indian Mill Creek were detected at 2.4 and 1.8 ppt, respectively. PFOS and PFOA in Plaster Creek were detected at 8.8 and 3.7 ppt. The fish results are still pending.
  • On March 30, 2021, 13 surface water samples were collected from the Squaconning Creek watershed near Freeland. This effort was initiated due to an elevated (8.9 ppt) PFOS concentration observed in Dutch Creek in 2019. Squaconning Creek flows to Dutch Creek and then to the Saginaw River. Two surface water samples exceeded the PFOS WQS. The North Branch of Squaconning Creek had a PFOS concentration of 45.7 ppt. The West Branch of Squaconning Creek had a PFOS concentration of 37.3 ppt. Fish have been collected from Squaconning Creek for PFAS analysis; however, results are still pending.
  • On April 20, 2021, 23 surface water samples were collected from the a Macatawa River watershed near Holland. Two samples from the Maplewood Drain exceeded the PFOS WQS with concentrations of 86.5 and 20.9 ppt. Fish were collected from Lake Macatawa for PFAS analysis; however, results are still pending.
  • Between April 13 and April 29, 2021, surface water samples near three airports for PFAS analysis. Four surface water samples were collected near the Chippewa County Airport. Only one sample exceeded the WQS for PFOS collected from Hutton Creek with a PFOS concentration of 18 ppt. Five surface water samples were collected near the Gogebic County airport. PFOS was non-detect in four of these samples with the sole detection being in Mud Creek at 1.4 ppt. Two surface water samples were collected near the Lakeview-Griffith Field Airport. Both samples were collected from Tamarack Lake and had non-detectable PFOS concentrations. One sample had a detectable PFOA concentration at 1.1 ppt.
  • On May 4, 2021, EGLE deployed the POCIS (passive samplers) in the Flint River watershed at 13 locations. The samplers were deployed for 28 days and retrieved on June 1, 2021 for PFAS analysis; results are pending. This study will give us a better indication as to which tributaries are contributing to the highest PFAS contamination to the Flint River. Additionally, surface water grab samples were collected from 42 locations throughout the watershed. Two samples exceeded WQS for PFOS. A sample collected from the Cornwell Drain had a PFOS concentration of 98.1 ppt and a sample collected from Gilkey Creek had a PFOS concentration of 13.4 ppt.

Assorted surface water sampling locations

  • On May 18, 2021, sediment samples were collected from both Tims Lake and Grass Lake in Jackson to continue the source tracking investigation following the receipt of elevated fish tissue PFOS concentrations in Grass Lake. Five sediment samples collected from Grass Lake and three samples collected from Tims Lake had non-detectable concentrations of PFOS and PFOA. Other PFAS were detected in these samples but were below the laboratory reporting limit. Fish were collected from Tims Lake; however, these results are still pending.
  • Between July 8- 11, 2021, surface water samples were collected from the Keweenaw Peninsula region for PFAS analysis. Results of this sampling effort are expected back in mid-August. Fish were also collected from the Carp River downstream of a tributary that runs through the former Marquette County airport in Negaunee, MI. The fish results won't be available until late 2020/early 2021.
  • On July 22, 2021, Largemouth Bass, Rock Bass, and Bluegill were collected from Ox Creek (Benton Harbor) for analysis.
  • In 2020, EGLE WRD has collected 632 samples from Michigan surface waters for PFAS analysis.
  • In 2020, EGLE WRD collected fish from 33 water bodies for PFAS analysis.

‚ÄčA collage of staff posing with fish they caught, which will be tested for pfas

Next Steps:

  • Assess whether data are available to calculate concentrations of additional PFAS in surface water that are protective of aquatic life and human health.
  • Conduct a POCIS study in the Saginaw River watershed to assist with the ongoing watershed PFAS source tracking investigation.
  • Receive and assess results from the 2021 Flint RiverPOCIS study conducted to monitor PFAS trends in the Flint River watershed.
  • Collect surface water grab samples from the Pere Marquette-White and Saginaw River watersheds for PFAS analysis.
  • Complete the PFHxS/PFNA bioaccumulation study in Silver Lead Creek (near Gwinn) and Helmer Creek (near Battle Creek) in 2021.
  • Continue to collect fish from water bodies across the state for PFAS and legacy contaminant analyses.
  • Determine and prioritize fish and surface water sampling locations for 2022.
  • Continue to assess improvements and/or year-to-year differences in PFAS concentrations at several locations using a combination of fish collection, surface water grab sampling, and passive sampling techniques. 

Reports: 

  • A Water Resources Division staff report on a statewide survey conducted in 2012/2013 is available along with staff reports for the Clinton River, River Raisin, Kalamazoo River, and Huron River watersheds. The watershed staff reports are available via the MPART Watershed Investigations page.
  • An EGLE WRD staff report summarizing the results of the POCIS study conducted in the Huron River watershed is available and will soon be posted to the MPART Huron River Investigation page.

Research/Studies:

  • Assess toxicity of PFAS contaminated sediments to aquatic benthic macroinvertebrates.
  • Assess potential for PFAS contaminated sediments to act as a source of PFAS to the aquatic food web and sustain elevated fish tissue PFOS concentrations.
  • Determine whether passive samplers can be used to assess trends in surface water PFAS concentrations and whether POCIS are good predictors of PFAS contamination in the aquatic food web. Water quality samplers are placed in surface waters for four weeks to allow contaminants in the water to accumulate onto the sampling device. 

a collage of staff posing with a cage used in caged fish studies

  • Determine how often fish samples should be analyzed for PFAS to assess improvements of ongoing remediation efforts and if POCIS can be used to meet this goal.
  • Determine the potential for other PFAS to build up in fish tissues.
  • Continue monitoring PFAS intensively in selected watersheds and at randomly selected locations statewide.
  • Commissioned a foam study in 2019 to develop surface water foam sampling techniques and guidance document, compare surface water and foam sampling results from select surface waters, and develop a conceptual site model for the generation of foam on surface waters.   Draft results of the study were received in September 2020.

EGLE staff collecting samples at assorted locations along water bodies

Historical Timeline:

  • In 2019, 640 surface water samples were collected for PFAS analysis.
  • Developed approach for citizens and EGLE staff to report foam complaints electronically (MiWaters Spill/Incident/Pollution form) to help guide future monitoring decisions.
  • Determined the distribution and concentration of PFAS in lake ice collected from Van Etten Lake in 2019 and 2020 after citizen complaints. 
  • On March 19, 2020, EGLE received results from eight surface water samples collected from the Pigeon River watershed as a part of the former White Pigeon Paper Company investigation. The sampling was conducted on March 9th, 2020.
  • On April 1, 2020, EGLE received results from a pilot Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler (POCIS) study conducted in the Huron River watershed. The samplers were deployed in the Huron River for 28 days between September 26, 2019 and October 24, 2019.
  • On July 21, 2020, 18 surface water samples were collected in the Portage Creek area of Kalamazoo. No samples exceeded the water quality standards (WQS) for PFOS or PFOA.
  • On August 3 and 4, 2020, 27 surface water samples were collected in the Huron River watershed. Samples collected from Norton Creek, Willow Run, and Washago Pond exceeded the WQS for PFOS. PFOS concentrations in Norton Creek have continued to decline since July 2018 when it was measured at 5,600 ppt. Source-tracking continues in Willow Run and the Washago Pond area.
  • On August 11, 2020, 41 surface water samples were collected from the Ecorse River and Frank & Poet Drain watersheds. Several samples from both watersheds exceeded the WQS for PFOS. Future investigations to track the source(s) of contamination are being planned.
  • On August 20, 2020, surface water samples were collected from drains in the Ft. Gratiot/St. Clair county PFAS Area of Investigation. Seven of the 21 samples collected had PFOS concentrations exceeding the WQS and ranged from 18 ppt to 247 ppt. Further investigations are being planned to determine the source(s) of contamination.
  • On August 25, 2020, four surface water samples were collected from Regan Drain and the Huron River near Washago Pond in the Willow Metropark to confirm initial results from the August 3rd sampling event. Results confirmed that PFOS contamination exists in the Regan drain upstream of Washago Pond. Future investigations to track the source(s) of contamination were planned.
  • On August 27, 2020, surface water and sediment samples were collected from Little Black Creek and the Mona Lake watershed for PFAS analysis.  Surface water samples collected from Mona Lake ranged from 2.3 ppt to 14.7 ppt PFOS with the highest concentration exceeding the PFOS WQS. In Little Black Creek, six of the ten surface water samples exceeded the WQS for PFOS and ranged from 13.0 ppt to 37.6 ppt PFOS.
  • On September 3, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Bear River near Petoskey for PFAS analysis. PFOS was non-detect at all seven sampling locations in the Bear River watershed.
  • On September 3, 2020, surface water samples were collected from the Burt Lake watershed near Pellston. PFOS was non-detect in 11 of the 14 samples collected from the Burt Lake watershed and less than two ppt in the other three samples. Fish were also collected from the west branch of the Maple River for PFAS analysis. The results for the fish analysis won't be available until 2021.

Timeline of Accomplishments:

  • 2011:  Derived human health/aquatic life surface water quality values for PFOA.
  • 2012/2013:  Conducted initial statewide PFAS reconnaissance survey.
  • 2014:  Derived human health/aquatic life surface water quality values for PFOS.
  • 2016:  Conducted an initial survey of PFAS in the Flint River watershed.
  • 2017:  PFAS monitoring continued in the Flint River watershed, began in the Clinton River watershed, and additional sampling was conducted in 6 other watersheds.
  • 2018:  Intensive PFAS monitoring surveys were conducted in the River Raisin, Huron River, Kalamazoo River, Rogue River, and St. Joseph River watersheds, and additional sampling was conducted in 6 other watersheds.
  • 2019:  Intensive PFAS monitoring surveys were conducted in the Black River (St. Clair County), Saginaw River, Grand River, and Thornapple River watersheds, and additional sampling was conducted in 18 other watersheds.  Statewide monitoring of PFAS concentrations at randomly selected locations began.
  • 2020: PFAS monitoring surveys conducted in the Pigeon River, Shiwassee River, Mona Lake, Ecorse River, Frank and Poet Drain, Bear River (Pellston), Huron River, Portage Creek (Kalamazoo), and the Burt Lake watersheds. POCIS study was conducted in the Huron River.
  • 2021: PFAS monitoring conducted in the Clinton River, Shiawassee River, Saginaw River, Black River (Gogebic County), Grand River, Munuscong River, Paw Paw River, Macatawa River, Rouge River, Escanaba River, Flint River, Salmon-Trout River, Sturgeon River, Keweenaw Waterway, Misery River, Chocolay River, and Tobacco River watersheds. POCIS study was conducted in the Flint River.

Workgroup Lead Name and E-Mail:

Michael Alexander
AlexanderM2@Michigan.gov