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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS have been used globally during the past century in manufacturing, firefighting and thousands of common household and other consumer products. These chemicals are persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. In recent years, experts have become increasingly concerned by the potential effects of high concentrations of PFAS on human health.
The main way people are exposed to these chemicals is by swallowing them. PFAS chemicals are sometimes found in drinking water and in cooking or food packaging products. PFAS can be swallowed along with the water or food, from there they can enter the bloodstream. Touching products made with PFAS or touching water that contains PFAS is not the main way people are exposed to these chemicals. The PFAS chemicals do not easily absorb into the skin. (Source: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/)
The PFAS chemicals do not easily absorb into the skin. It is safe to bathe, as well as do your laundry and household cleaning. It is also safe to swim in and use water recreationally. Getting water with PFAS on your skin will not harm you. (Source: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/)
Residents on municipal water have no risk of contamination in their drinking water as a result of this discovery. Municipal water in the City of Portage is continually analyzed, monitored and tested to ensure compliance with standards prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Out of an abundance of caution, the city tested 22 private wells in the close proximity of the former landfill. All results from this testing were found to be well under the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 PPT for PFOA + PFOS and under the proposed Michigan safe Drinking Water PFAS Standards. A Portage resident with concerns about contamination of a private well can contact the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department at (269) 373-5210.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a lifetime health advisory (LHA) level for two PFAS in drinking water: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The PFOA and PFOS LHA is the level, or amount, below which no harm is expected from these chemicals. The LHA level is 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS individually or combined. The LHA, protective of everyone, especially pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. Currently, the EPA has not set health advisory levels for the other PFAS chemicals. (Source: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/)
The first step is to contact the City of Portage Department of Community Development at (269) 329-4477. Connecting to City of Portage Municipal Water: http://www.portagemi.gov/DocumentCenter/View/160/Connecting-to-City-of-Portage-Water-PDF?bidId=
While the exact source of the contamination has not been determined, a landfill was operated at 9010 South Westnedge Avenue from the early 1950s through 1977. In 1978, the site began operating as a transfer station and recycling center. Materials were brought to the site, sorted and trucked to other area facilities.
In 1989, the City of Portage began a major groundwater cleanup effort, including groundwater recovery pumping. Efforts also began to connect downgradient residential properties from the landfill to Crockett Avenue to municipal water. In 1999, cleanup efforts were complete and the city began a comprehensive groundwater sampling and monitoring program, which continues today. All testing has been performed by a highly-qualified environmental consulting firm retained by the City of Portage, American Hydrogeology Corporation (AHC). With the emergence of PFAS across Michigan, the city began self-initiated and precautionary testing at the former landfill for PFAs in the spring of 2019. The city learned that there were concentrations of PFAS in the southwest corner of the site that exceeded drinking water health advisories. The city expanded the scope of testing, following accepted scientific protocols, to determine if the PFAS contamination was migrating off of the site.