Town hall meeting will address water well testing near Grayling Army Airfield
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A meeting will be held next week to address results of testing for contamination gathered from residential water wells on property located near the Grayling Army Airfield.
A town hall meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19, at the Camp Grayling Armory, located in Building 3 on Howe Road near the entrance to Camp Grayling.
Jeannine Taylor, the public information officer for District Health Department #10, said health officials have made personal contact with residents in the area which may be impacted by the contamination. Additional information was planned to be mailed to the residents this week.
The investigation to determine if chemicals have leached into the water table includes testing private residential water wells in between the airfield and the AuSable River in Grayling Charter Township, specifically in the Sherwood Forest subdivision and along Evergreen Drive.
“They are still in the process of validating the data, but hopefully the results from the water well testing will be released to the residents prior to the meeting,” Taylor said.
In 2016, the National Guard Bureau issued a directive to identify water sources at every training facility, camp, fort, and armory. The order also included every installation which had an airfield where fire crash training occurred or where fires occurred with the use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).
The foam contains Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which “have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an emerging contaminate on the national landscape,” according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
“PFCs are a class of man-made chemicals that were introduced in the 1950s to make products that resist heat, stains, grease and water,” according to the DEQ. “For example, PFCs may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofa cushions and carpets that are resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses that repel water, and in food packaging like pizza boxes, fast food wrappers and airtight bags.”
According to the DEQ, “one of the most prolific uses of the chemicals is a powerful fire-suppression foam that efficiently douses the most combustible and most dangerous threats to life and property,” including flammable liquid and fuel fires. “Virtually every airport, public, private, military and civilian, and every fire-fighting squad in the world is familiar with the use of the foam.”
In the fall of 2016, water samples were taken from monitoring wells at the Grayling Army Airfield.
Due to low detection levels and an issue with the sampling verification, more tests were conducted on wells on the southern boundary of the Grayling Army Airfield.
After receiving those test results, the Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA), the DEQ, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) partnered to address the issue. A cluster of 20 monitoring wells was installed along the Grayling Army Airfield’s fence line and 60 groundwater samples were collected.
Of those samples, which came back in mid-April of this year, 20 tested positive for PFCs and five exceeded the U.S. EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.
The DMVA held a town hall meeting at the Grayling Middle School on May 18 to inform residents regarding potential tainted water.
Prior to the town hall meeting next week, representatives from District Health Department #10 and DEQ will be on hand at the armory to meet with residents individually to discuss results from the water well testing from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“There will be experts from all major health organizations there,” Taylor said.
The town hall meeting will address the water testing results, residents who have not had their wells tested, and plans to address the issue in the future.
“We will talk about the plan moving forward with the PFCs and how we’re going to handle this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremie A. Mead, the community relations specialist for the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
In 2016, thousands of people who live in the Ohio River Valley were tested for PFCs exposure as a result of a class action lawsuit. Six health outcomes of those people studied included increased cholesterol, Ulcerative colitis, Preeclampsia, higher thyroid function, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer. In addition, children exposed to PFCs had lower immunity after receiving some vaccinations, which required some booster vaccinations.
In Grayling, water tree has been established on a hydrant near the Grayling City Hall. This will allow Grayling Charter Township residents in the area where wells will be tested to have a safe source for water between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
The DEQ has assumed the operation of environmental assistance center for issues regarding the Grayling Army Airfield. For assistance, e-mail email@example.com or call 800-662-9278.
Complete coverage of the July 19 town hall meeting will be available on The Avalanche’s website, www.CrawfordCountyAvalanche.com, following the meeting, as well as in the July 27 edition of The Avalanche.