The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE, formerly the DEQ) recently completed a new round of PFAS surface water testing along the Huron River. The good news is that most of the locations tested had no detectable PFOS and PFOA, two chemicals in the PFAS family, or their detected levels were well below the EPA drinking water guideline of 70 ppt.
There’s been significant media attention given to the state’s recent “avoid the foam” advisory. We discussed that advisory previously in a Huron River Water Trail blog post on foam and noted that the Huron River is safe for swimming and boating. The new results tell us that PFAS levels are encouragingly low.
PFOS was found in Norton Creek at a level of 13 ppt. Remember that back in September of 2018, it was found at about 5,500 ppt. Norton Creek was the drainage pathway between the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant and Tribar Manufacturing, the major identified source of PFAS to the Huron River. Tribar and the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant have been working to reduce the discharge of PFAS to Norton Creek, and it looks like their efforts are paying off.
Several tests near Horseshoe Creek, which runs through Whitmore Lake and Hamburg, before draining to the Huron, detected no PFOS or PFOA. Samples from Hamburg Lake showed a low level of PFOA at 3.2 ppt. PFOS was found in Honey Creek at 7 ppt. Many other tested sites had no detectable PFOS or PFOA.
Willow Run Creek, within the Willow Run Airport boundary, tested higher for PFOS at 92 ppt. The area is not accessible to recreation and the detection isn’t a major concern for the river. It is, however, worth more investigation to understand where PFAS are coming from near the airport and the extent of the contamination.
Overall, these relatively low test results throughout the watershed confirm how effective it is to address PFAS at the source of the contamination, rather than dealing with it once it contaminates water supplies. That means communities and state agencies should keep pursuing solutions that address PFAS contamination across municipal borders. Once the pollution is out there, it’s not inhibited by county or township lines. And, while these results are encouraging, we need to remain vigilant by continuing to look for any additional minor sources that may be out there.