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PFAS Response

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Grand Haven Area Public Schools (GHAPS) to take the appropriate measures and develop an action plan to help ensure the water our children and residents are drinking meets appropriate state and federal standards.

On October 29, OCDPH and GHAPS were notified of elevated levels of Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the drinking water well at Grand Haven's Robinson Elementary School. School leaders immediately restricted access to drinking water in the building. Bottled water is being provided to the school through the Ottawa County Sheriff's Emergency Management Division. The MDEQ resampled the school and results were received on October 31 indicating PFAS levels remained elevated above the EPA's Lifetime Health Advisory (HLA) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined. Ottawa County health officials, along with school district leaders, are working closely with the MDEQ and MDHHS on the next steps.

Other than Robinson Elementary, all other schools in the GHAPS are served by Northwest Ottawa Water System. This system was tested and the results were far below the LHA level. Drinking is the primary way PFAS can get into the body. Washing hands and other skin contact is not considered a health concern as PFAS does not move easily through the skin.

Resources

If you are concerned about PFAS exposure please contact MDHHS Services Toxicology hotline at 1-800-648-6942 or visit www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse .

PFAS Sampling Guidance for Residential Wells

Testing and Treatment

PFAS Fact Sheet

Talking to Your Doctor about Exposure to PFAS

PFAS in Drinking Water

Timeline

Ongoing
The MDEQ is sampling wells around Robinson Elementary School and assessing the risks to determine the public health action plan for residences and businesses in the area served by groundwater.

  • MDEQ is actively investigating the situation and cannot speculate at this time about a possible source of contamination.
  • MDEQ has preliminarily assessed that the groundwater flows in a north/northeasterly
  • A sandy shallow aquifer is currently being used by the school.
  • Based on the geology and groundwater flow direction, MDEQ has identified 25 properties in a downgradient direction to have their drinking water wells sampled.

November 2 & 5, 2018
Additional cautionary samples were taken from residences surrounding Robinson Elementary School. Results are expected in 4-6 weeks.

October 31, 2018
Second well water sample test results received for Robinson Elementary School:

    PFOA+PFOS = 119 ppt
    Total PFAS = 171 ppt

The other well water samples taken on October 29 were far below the LHA of 70 ppt.

    Daycare center results:
    PFOA+PFOS = 4 ppt
    Total PFAS = 32 ppt
    Robinson Township Fire Station results:
    PFOA+PFOS = 5 ppt
    Total PFAS = 7 ppt

Response: Ottawa County health officials, along with school district leaders, are working closely with the MDEQ and MDHHS on the next steps.

October 29, 2018
Initial test results received for Robinson Elementary School:

    PFOA+PFOS = 110 ppt
    Total PFAS = 144 ppt

    EPA's Lifetime Health Advisory for PFOA+PFOS Total is 70 ppt

Response: School immediately shut-off drinking water and distributed bottled water to students and staff. A second well water sample was taken from the school and samples were also taken from a nearby daycare center and the Robinson Township Fire Station.

October 19, 2018
Northwest Ottawa County Water System test results received and were below the health advisory level.

September 18, 2018
Initial well water sample was taken from Robinson Elementary School in Robinson Township by the MDEQ.

Northwest Ottawa County Water System water sample taken.

Fire Fighting Foam Used in Robinson Township

There are two major classes of firefighting foam. Class A and Class B. Class A foams were developed to fight wildland fires and are now used to fight wood structure fires. There are no current PFAS concerns with Class A foam products. Class B firefighting foam is made to fight fires involving combustible liquids and gases. Class B foam are known to contain PFAS and have been surveyed by the State Fire Marshal. The Robinson Township Fire Department has only possessed Class A, non PFAS containing firefighting foam products; this includes the products that were used for public display and community events.

State of Michigan's Response

Robinson Elementary School's PFAS results were identified as part of the state-wide proactive study of PFAS levels in groundwater. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team is nearing completion of a sampling program that includes 461 schools with wells and 1,380 public water supplies. To date, 381 schools have been sampled and 294 laboratory results have been received. Of that number 266 schools tested were non-detects for PFAS and 28 schools had combined PFOS and PFOA detections below the EPA Health Advisory Level of 70 ppt.

Michigan PFAS Sites

Michigan PFAS Action Response Team

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I get my well tested?

    Click here for information about PFAS and residential well water testing information.

  • What are PFAS?

    Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s.

    • PFAS do not occur naturally but are widespread in the environment.
    • PFAS are found in people, wildlife and fish all over the world.
    • Some PFAS can stay in people's bodies for a long time.
    • Some PFAS do not break down easily in the environment.
  • Can exposure to PFAS cause health problems?
    • Some scientific studies suggest that certain PFAS may affect different systems in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are working with various partners to better understand how exposure to PFAS might affect people's health— especially how exposure to PFAS in water and food may be harmful. Learn More »

    • Some (but not all) PFAS build up in the body. The levels of some PFAS go down slowly over time once exposure stops. Scientists are studying how different amounts of PFAS in the body over time may affect health.

    • More research is needed, but some studies in people have shown that certain PFAS may:
      • affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
      • lower a woman's chance of getting pregnant
      • interfere with the body's natural hormones
      • increase cholesterol levels
      • affect the immune system
      • increase the risk of cancer
  • Should my family and I be tested for any of the health conditions possibly linked to PFAS exposure?
    • Laboratory test results can't tell you if PFAS exposure has caused your health condition.
    • Some of the health effects possibly linked to PFAS exposure, like high cholesterol, can be checked as part of your annual physical. It is important to have regular check-ups and screenings.
    • You can tell your doctor about any exposure to PFAS and any symptoms you have.
  • Should my family and I get a blood test for PFAS if we have been exposed to PFAS?
    • PFAS blood test results can tell you the amount of PFAS in your blood. However, test results won't tell you how PFAS will affect your health now or in the future.
    • Blood testing for PFAS is not a regular test offered by doctors or health departments.
    • If you want or need to know your PFAS blood levels, you can talk to
      • your doctor or health care provider
      • other health professionals (for example, for concerns about babies and children contact your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit or PEHSU ).
    • Remember that test results will only tell you and your health care provider if you have been exposed to PFAS.
    • Keep in mind that most people in the United States have one or more specific PFAS in their blood, especially PFOS and PFOA.
  • Could exposure to PFAS in drinking water harm my health in the future?

    We don't know if exposure to PFAS may cause health problems in the future. You can tell your doctor if you have been exposed to PFAS and ask if you need to be monitored for symptoms or conditions that may be caused by PFAS exposure in the future.

  • How can I be exposed to PFAS?

    PFAS contamination may be in drinking water, food, indoor dust, some consumer products, and workplaces. Most nonworker exposures occur through drinking contaminated water or eating food that contains PFAS. Although some types of PFAS are no longer used, some products may still contain PFAS:

    • Food packaging materials
    • Nonstick cookware
    • Stain resistant carpet treatments
    • Water resistant clothing
    • Cleaning products
    • Paints, varnishes and sealants
    • Firefighting foam
    • Some cosmetics
  • How can I reduce my exposure to PFAS?

    PFAS are present at low levels in some food products and in the environment (air, water, soil, etc.), so you probably cannot prevent PFAS exposure altogether. However, if you live near known sources of PFAS contamination, you can take steps to reduce your risk of exposure.

    If your drinking water contains PFAS above the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory, consider using an alternative or treated water source for any activity in which you might swallow water.

If you are concerned about PFAS exposure please contact MDHHS Services Toxicology hotline at 1-800-648-6942 or visit www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse .