Former Du-Wel employee not surprised by PFAS in Hartford

The former Du-Wel Metal Products site along Heywood Street in Hartford has been identified as being contaminated by PFAS chemicals.

HARTFORD — The day after it was announced that the state is testing residential wells near the former Du-Wel Products plant in Hartford for PFAS, a former plant employee said he’s not suprised, claiming the company carelessly dumped chemicals for years.

Al Pierce, who lives along 60th Avenue right behind the former plating facility, was approached Friday morning to get a water sample from his well. 

“They’d get fined for dumping, but a company making that much money doesn’t care about the fines,” Pierce said.

Pierce said he worked at the facility for 17 years and believes the company was releasing chemicals into the city sewer and into a pond on the other side of 60th Avenue.

“I wondered why a company like that would be hooked up to the city’s water, and I bet if you dug you could find a pipe leading over to that pond,” Pierce said.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (DEGLE) announced this week that the Du-Wel site is contaminated by perand polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a known carcinogen believed to be responsible for cancer and other ailments when ingested in large doses.

Though the Du-Wel site is in the city limits, most residents around the site live in Hartford Township. The Hartford Du-Wel plant, then part of a business headquartered in Bangor, was shuttered in 1992.

Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik said Friday the township first learned about the situation on Wednesday.

“They’ve been doing monitoring there for quite a few years, but they discovered PFAS there and have started going door to door to get water samples to send out for testing,” he said.

DEGLE and Van Buren/Cass District Health Department Officials are testing about 50 homes in the area of Heywood Street, 60th Avenue and  65th Street north past Red Arrow Highway.

Pierce said his well is 45 feet below the ground.

“I hope that’s deep enough to avoid any contamination,” he said. “I thought it was 100 feet, but I called my father, who’s property this is, and he said it’s only 45.”

Pierce said someone had offered to sell part of the Du-Wel property to his father some years back, but it was going to cost way too much money to clean up.

“It would cost someone millions of dollars to clean up that whole site,” he said.

Sefcik said once the water samples are gathered, it could take about three weeks to get results back.

In the meantime, officials are planning a town hall meeting for residents from 6-8 p.m. next Wednesday at the Hartford Federated Church (Hartford Bible Church) 65418 Red Arrow Highway, Hartford.

Sefcik said there will be representatives on hand from various departments to do a presentation and answer any questions residents have.

“We’ve been working with state legislators, DEGLE and our local health department,” he said. “All of the officials have been fantastic to work with and after multiple conference calls they have a plan of action.”

Sefcik said the residents in the investigation area can still bathe, wash their clothes and cook with their water, but if they feel uncomfortable they can go to the fire department, 436 E. Main St., to obtain bottles of water.

Hartford Clerk RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht said Friday that the city is working with state and local officials to provide any information they may need.

She said anyone with questions and/or concerns should contact Van Buren/Cass District Health Department or DEGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center at 1-800-662-9278 or Hartford Township at 621-4658.

Sefcik said PFAS chemicals have been around since the 1950s, though it didn’t get on everyone’s radar until recent cases have popped up around the state.

“It just seems to be the era we’re living in,” he said.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman