Traverse City News and Events

Well Test Results Released From Contaminated Blair Township Site

By Beth Milligan | Sept. 7, 2018

Tests on 26 private wells in Blair Township near a polluted former tire fire site have shown that 17 wells have no detectable levels of contaminants - while 9 sites show levels below federal guidelines.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) tested the wells on August 6 for contaminants called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS – which are found in numerous industrial and consumer products – have been identified in recent years as an "emerging contaminant" posing health risks to humans, according to Michigan’s Environmental Health department. The chemicals have been linked to increased cholesterol, decreased fertility, and increased risk of certain cancers, among other risks. Firefighting foam is the likely culprit behind the presence of PFAS in Blair Township, which experienced a devastating tire fire at the Carl’s Retreading site in 1995.

MDEQ tested nearby wells to see whether the contaminants were spreading onto neighboring properties. Levels for 17 of the 26 wells came back "non-detect," meaning no traceable contaminates were found. Nine of the wells showed levels of PFAS that ranged between 2 parts-per-trillion and 36 parts-per-trillion. All the results are less than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) Health Advisory Level of 70 parts-per-trillion.

"While there is no immediate health concern for any of the residents using the affected wells, the Grand Traverse County Health Department (GTCHD) will still be contacting individual owners/residents of the nine wells and providing an alternate water solution for these properties as a precautionary measure," according to a Health Department release. "GTCHD will begin implementing an interim plan to provide water access vouchers for bottled water to the individuals with any level of PFAS contamination. The vouchers will allow for receipt of bottled water supplies through the Blair Township Office. Affected residents will be individually notified directly and provided with information on how to obtain the bottled water and other health information."

MDEQ had previously tested the well at Blair Elementary School and determined there were no detectable levels of PFAS at the site. However, Traverse City Area Public Schools has indicated it nonetheless plans to switch to the township's municipal water supply in the future.

Further analysis, planning, and monitoring of the properties near the old Carl’s Retreading site will continue, according to the Health Department. Questions regarding wells or drinking water in the area should be directed to GTCHD’s Environmental Health Division at 231-995-6051.

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