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EPA joins state in old tannery waste disposal investigation

December 28, 2017

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has joined the state in an investigation into old tannery waste disposal in some western Michigan communities.

Two teams of EPA scientists started testing wells Wednesday, WOOD-TV reported.

Scientists have said the toxins are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says scientists are uncertain about how they affect human health at exposure levels typically found in food and water. But some studies suggest the chemicals might affect fetal development, disrupt hormonal functions, damage fertility and immune systems, and boost the risk of cancer.

One well that the EPA tested Wednesday in Algoma Township, which is northeast of Grand Rapids, had already been found to have five times the agency’s advisory level for drinking water of 70 parts per trillion for PFAS, according to the television station.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality previously said it was investigating 75 sites for toxic industrial chemicals that were used by Wolverine World Wide to waterproof shoes. Earlier this month, a group of Michigan lawmakers asked the EPA for help.

“We’re just doing monitoring so we can compare numbers,” Chicago-based EPA biologist Peg Donnelly said. “The Michigan DEQ is really in charge of all the Wolverine activities that are going on, but EPA wants some additional data.”

Wolverine has tested more than 1,000 wells since the contamination plume was discovered earlier this year.

In Algoma Township, it’s believed the contamination came from farm fields that used Wolverine sludge for fertilizer decades ago.

Donnelly said samples will be sent to an EPA lab in Chicago and another on the East Coast. Preliminary results could be ready in five days, but residents should expect final results in the mail within a month, she said.

“We’re here in the middle of the holidays, a busy time of year, but people understand we’re just trying to get some more information so we can figure what to do,” Donnelly said.

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Information from: WOOD-TV, http://www.woodtv.com

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