No PFASs Over Federal Limit in City of Kalamazoo Drinking Water, Officials Say

Jul 31, 2018

Pipes at a City of Kalamazoo drinking water plant.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

A handful of wells in the City of Kalamazoo’s municipal water system have detectable levels of chemicals in the PFAS family, but none of those sources comes close to the federal recommended limit, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, and the city says the water is safe to drink.

Tests showed that a few wells contained PFASs for which the Environmental Protection Agency has not set a recommended limit.

Compounds in the PFAS family have been used in a wide range of products from flame retardants to nonstick pans. Exposure to some of the chemicals is now linked to cancer and other diseases. The federal government sets a recommended limit of 70 parts per trillion for two PFASs: PFOA and PFOS. (At least one state, New Jersey, sets the limit much lower for PFOS.)

Samples from two wells that the City of Kalamazoo uses occasionally at times of high load showed levels of 18 and 19 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA, in tests commissioned by the DEQ.

“The City of Kalamazoo’s wells, which serve not only the City of Kalamazoo but a number of the townships around Kalamazoo all were within the safe drinking water standards for these chemicals,” said Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain on Tuesday.

The City of Kalamazoo also found levels of 69 and 72 parts per trillion for unspecified PFASs in the same standby wells. Chamberlain says the government has not set a limit for those PFASs.

“If they do have a regulated number in the future we will obviously abide by that. But at this time those numbers are not set by the State of Michigan or the EPA,” he said.

PFASs have turned up in the groundwater and in public or private drinking water sources in several parts of Kalamazoo County. Chamberlain says the city is investigating the source of the PFASs found in its water.