CADILLAC — Recent testing performed on potable water sources at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center showed PFAS levels met state drinking water standards.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Lynn Sutfin said the results from three drinking fountains at the facility met the standards, but discussions on filters and additional sampling will continue.
Wexford-Missaukee CTC Director Tim Rigling the filtration that is currently on the drinking fountains is showing good promise as two of the three had no detect results.
“We are pleased to see that. It says filtering can be effective, but how often do you need to change them,” he said. “That is fine for the drinking fountains, but what about the water in the (Hospitality, Retailing and Entrepreneurship program) kitchen used for cooking? Do we have to filter that?”
There are multiple options available to address the issue at the CTC, including placing a filtration system on the well where the PFAS was detected and digging deeper in the existing well where the contamination is detected to see if they can move past it and into a different aquifer.
A new well also could be drilled, one of the other wells with zero contamination could be tapped into to supply water to the CTC building or the campus could hook into the Haring Township Water System.
With the confirmation that the filtration is working, Rigling said the possibility to put a filtration system on the entire system has moved up the ladder in terms of being a viable option. The question of cost remains due to the amount of water the CTC uses. He also said the frequency they would need to change the filters also would need to be figured out.
“That (the filtration system) moves up the possibilities. Before it was just a maybe we can do this,” Rigling said. “But now that we see it filters the PFAS, it is something we will want to take a closer look at.”
In October, the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center was alerted to a test result showing one of the PFAS chemicals had elevated levels in one of its wells.
Another quarterly test was performed late last year and Perfluorononanoic acid or PFNA was 5 nanograms per liter. That reading is below the state threshold for maximum contaminant level of 6 ng/L. Previously, PFNA was found at a level of 7.667 nanograms per liter in the CTC well.
Three years ago, the CTC started voluntarily testing the three wells it has that provide water to the Cadillac campus. The testing was part of the state’s push to ensure drinking water was safe and free of dangerous levels of substances such as lead and PFAS.
During quarterly testing, levels were below the state threshold for elevated levels for each of the seven PFAS chemicals until October’s testing results showed the elevated levels of PFNA.
Although the CTC’s well showed elevated levels of PFNA, the other two wells on the campus — used by the special services and business office and the agro-science and heavy equipment building — didn’t even have trace amounts of PFAS found.
Currently, there are no federal drinking water standards for any PFAS chemicals. This means that public water supplies do not have to test or treat their water for PFAS under federal law. The EPA has issued a non-enforceable guideline for two of the most common PFAS chemicals, Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid or PFOS and Perfluorooctanoic Acid or PFOA. Some states, including Michigan, have issued health guidelines that are stricter than the EPA guidelines, and some states have proposed or established enforceable standards.
When the elevated level was detected, a letter was sent home with CTC students, penned by Rigling. A public notice also was placed on the entrances of the CTC.
On Dec. 21, residential wells near the CTC were scheduled to be tested for elevated levels of PFAS, but it would be several weeks before results were returned, according to MDHHS. Sutfin said results were expected sometime later this month.
Rigling also said he has not seen the results of the residential testing, but he is interested to see what impact or how widespread the PFAS issue is. The ultimate goal is to find the source, Rigling said.