Press Release: Testing Finds Public Drinking Water Supplies Contain Harmful Chemicals called PFAS

Posted on September 12, 2018 by

Contact:  Jill Ryan or Stephanie Altrock

Phone: 231-348-8200

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Testing Finds Public Drinking Water Supplies Contain Harmful Chemicals called PFAS

September 11, 2018

Michigan – Perfluroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, have collectively emerged as one the biggest environmental threats facing the Great Lakes region. In the State of Michigan alone, roughly 11,000 sites are estimated to be contaminated by PFAS; a man-made family of chemicals that repel oil and water, has been used since the 1940’s for a number of common uses such as nonstick cookware, fire retardants, food wrappers, and much more.  Despite the massive threat PFAS pose to both the environment and human health, testing by the state only began recently for public water systems, and is not planned for private wells.

The State of Michigan is testing over 1,400 public water supplies, the data can be found here.  As a result of the State testing, the City of Parchment in Kalamazoo County found extremely high-levels of the contaminant, possibly from a former paper plant.   

While the current standards for protecting human health are set at 70 ppt by the U.S. EPA, the Center for Disease Control recently released report finding safe levels of PFAS chemicals to be up to 10-times lower than the EPA’s levels for human health (summarized here in  news articles from Michigan Radio and WZZM).

Freshwater Future, a nonprofit focused on helping communities across the Great Lakes region protect and restore their water from source to tap, wants to ensure that all residents with elevated PFAS levels but that are lower than the state threshold for action (70 ppt) are able to access this information and make decisions for their families. From the 500-plus sites tested by the State so far, PFAS has been found at or above 10 ppt in water supplies in several counties. Several of the sites with PFAS between 10-70 ppt are small public water supplies.

Several municipalities have tested between 10 and 70 ppt including:  

City County
Albion Calhoun
Independence Township Oakland
Ann Arbor Washtenaw
Kalamazoo Kalamazoo
Otsego Allegan
Plainfield Township Kent
Plainwell Allegan
Portage Kalamazoo


Many of these communities have been in the news, however it is important that residents have access to information about the status of their drinking water.  

If you live near one of the listed sites, here is more information from the Center for Disease Control on what the current federal protective standards are, human health effects of exposure, and answers to commonly asked questions regarding PFAS here.

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals used to repel oil and water. They are used in a wide range of consumer products and industrial applications. Companies worldwide have employed them to make non-stick cookware, carpet cleaners, stain repellents, waterproof and flame-resistant footwear and clothing, plumbers tape, coating wires, and flame retardants. This class of chemical is especially harmful because it does not break down in the environment or the human body. As a groundwater contaminant, PFAS chemicals are particularly challenging. They do not stick to anything or converge in one place—complicating cleanup.

Exposure to PFAS, PFOS, and PFOA chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, ulcerative colitis, hypertension, liver and thyroid damage, high cholesterol levels, and other serious health problems. The science is still developing, but we do know that exposure is not only unsafe, it’s potentially deadly over the long-term.  Jill Ryan, executive director of Freshwater Future, states: “Information about these harmful chemicals has been withheld at both the state and federal levels, and now we need to ensure that the testing results are disseminated quickly.”

You can sign-up to receive periodic updates on this issue by visiting Freshwater Future’s website:


© 2022 Freshwater Future. All Rights Reserved.

Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.