Source: https://www.mlive.com, December 20, 2018
By: Paula Gardner
Federal officials already removed 1,100 containers of chemical waste from the site of a closed Jackson factory – and now state officials are confronting the need to clean up PFAS there, too.
Testing results from fall showed that the per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals are contaminating the groundwater at the former Michner Plating Company.
The four-acre property at 506 N. Mechanic St. is just north of downtown Jackson and about 3.5 miles south of I-94 – and just yards east of the Grand River. The state of Michigan took it over following tax foreclosure that started in 2015 when at least $1.6 million was owed.
At that time, the buildings on the former factory site had more than a decade of unpaid taxes and improper chemical cleanup, officials said. The foreclosure, which included a second facility in Jackson that operated until 2015, coincided with the Environmental Protection Agency running a year-long pollution removal effort.
PFOS, one type of PFAS, likely was used on site as a surfactant, with the chemicals forming a barrier at the top of metal plating tanks to prevent workers from breathing fumes from other chemicals, like hexavalent chromium. PFAS is linked to cancer, thyroid issues, neurodevelopment issues and other health concerns.
State tests for both PFOS and PFOA resulted in peak combined levels of 9,479 parts per trillion (ppt). The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality performed a total of six PFAS tests for the pair of chemicals, with the lowest at a combined 483-ppt.
State regulations set 70-ppt as the cleanup standard for groundwater, which is typically used for drinking water from wells. The DEQ investigation is looking at contamination flow.
“Nearby properties are serviced by municipal water, which comes from wells approximately 2.5 miles upstream of this property,” according to the state. “Private drinking water wells are known to exist about 1.5 miles downstream of the site.”
The state also plans testing of the Grand River to see if contaminants from the site have reached it. Beyond the water sampling, it will use drones to “obtain thermal aerial imagery of the Grand River to better understand the interaction between the river and the aquifer.”
“Staff will be out on-site today to collect surface water samples above, below and adjacent to Michner Plating,” said Scott Dean, DEQ spokesperson, in an email on December 20.
“The biggest concern is possible impact to the river,” he said. “The City of Jackson’s municipal system was tested on July 11th and results came back non-detect.”
The PFAS findings come toward the end of a year where the state has dedicated significant resources to identifying where the contaminant may affect public health and the environment. Among the efforts has been mobilization of a task force called Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, which includes DEQ, health officials and other departments.
Testing is taking place of all public water supplies, many wells, dozens of wastewater treatment plants, several lakes and rivers. At least three “do not eat” foam advisories have been issued as identification of PFAS-laden foam became an issue, and both fish and deer testing are underway to determine when the public is at risk from consuming them.
At least 2 million Michigan residents are drinking water with some PFAS. An MLive investigation this fall also showed that dozens of active businesses are sending high levels of PFOS and other PFAS chemicals into wastewater systems, which do not filter for the chemicals before sending them into surface water. The cleanup standard for PFOS in surface water is 12-ppt.
Over the course of the state’s investigations, few PFAS identifications have reached the Jackson area. Nearby concerns include a full watershed mobilization for the Huron River, where contamination spread in large part from a plating business located in Wixom, and similar contamination from the wastewater plant in Howell.
The plating industry remains a focal point in the active investigations, and Michner Plating is now among several closed plating business that also are active cleanup sites that can add PFAS to their list of contamination concerns. They include Manistee Plating, former property of Lacks Industries near Grand Rapids and Adams Plating in Lansing. RACER Trust also is looking at plating operations on the former Buick City property in Flint as a possible cause for contamination there.
Michner Plating operated on North Mechanic Street from the 1930s through 2007, according to EPA data. By the time it closed, buildings totaling 137,000 square feet were on the property.
According to the EPA’s notes as it started the emergency cleanup: “The Site contains approximately 1,100 drums, vats, totes, and other containers. Labels and sample analytical results indicate the potential presence of cyanide, zinc cyanide, nickel chloride, chromic acid, hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, ignitable wastes, reactive wastes (including water reactive chemicals), and other chemicals.”
The chemical removal totaled more than 150,000 pounds of solids and 75,000 gallons of liquid chemicals, including corrosives and flammables.
The DEQ took over the ongoing site investigation, and used existing monitoring wells to test for PFAS. Six of them were tested, with PFOA readings ranging from 13- to 180-ppt. PFOS readings ranged from 470-ppt at two monitoring sites, then 6,750- to 9,479-ppt at four.
Tests also show another new cause for concern, notably for the occupants of nearby residential and commercial properties: Vapor intrusion, or the process of chemicals in soil or groundwater move into indoor air.
“The site has also detected concentrations of chlorinated solvents, which may pose a vapor intrusion risk to the on-site building and adjoining properties,” according to the state.
Next steps for the DEQ besides the water testing and gathering data on the vapor intrusion include testing the accumulated water in the basements of the buildings on site.
Recent PFAS news in Michigan shows the state’s conflicting messages on the chemicals.
MPART’s science advisory panel recently released a report based on available toxicology and epidemiology research, and said that the 70-ppt benchmark for PFOA and PFOS health likely is too high, and it suggested that all other PFAS chemicals – including some still in use – be considered as concerning for public health.
Yet the state Legislature also changed the formula for cleanup standards, which likely will widen the allowed amount of the toxic chemicals in many scenarios.