HARTFORD — The former Du-Wel Metal Products plating facility in Hartford has been identified as being contaminated by PFAS, according to state Rep. Beth Griffin, prompting state officials to conduct more testing that will start today.
“No contamination at residential wells has been found, but specific residential wells will be tested immediately as a precautionary step,” said Griffin, R-Mattawan, in a news release.
The city of Hartford’s municipal water system tested negative for PFAS, and the schools are also not affected.
PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS chemicals have been used in various industries because of their ability to repel oil and water. They are frequently found in Teflon nonstick products, cleaning products, paints, stains and water repellents, food packaging and firefighting foams.
More than 610 drinking water sources in 43 states have been found to contain potentially unsafe levels of the chemical compounds that have been linked to birth defects, cancers, infertility and reduced immune responses in children, according to a new database compiled by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University. Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that more than 19 million people have been exposed to water contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The Hartford contamination came to light earlier this week when officials with the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (DEGLE) received test results from 12 monitoring wells. Testing showed groundwater contamination as high as 8,690 parts per trillion (ppt) on grounds at the former plant, and as high as 285 ppt near the plant. The results are well above the current level of acceptable exposure of 70 ppt, according federal guidelines.
A news release from the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department further outlined the scope of the investigation. “There are 50 residential drinking water wells northwest of the Du-Wel site north of 60th Avenue and following 65th Street north past Red Arrow Highway that are currently being monitored for volatile organic compounds,” the release stated.
Officials expect to have initial test results back by May 20, according to the release. “Decisions about testing private wells beyond this initial area will be made based on results from the initial round of testing,” it stated.
Residents can find out if they are in the testing area by calling the Environmental Assistance Center at 1-800-662-9278.
The Du-Wel plant was located at 520 Heywood St. According to HP files, the plant originally was called Hartford Metal Protection, Inc. It was purchased in 1963 by Du-Wel, a company headquartered in Bangor that dated back to 1946. Du-Wel in Bangor in the mid-1980s employed 650 people, while the Hartford plant, at 35,000 square feet, employed about 140 people. “Hartford is a finishing plant with buffing and plating facilities that enables the company to finish castings produced at its other plants,” a 1986 article stated. The Du-Wel plant in Hartford closed in 1992 as the company struggled to survive.
Rep. Griffin sought to tamp down anxiety in Hartford.
“I have been in contact with state, county, city and township officials, and, while early results show contamination is minimal, we will be taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of residents’ drinking water,” Griffin said. “As we learn more about this situation I will be helping to distribute resources and information, as it becomes available. PFAS contamination has been found across the state, and I will continue to work with my colleagues at the state level to pursue long-term solutions to protect the drinking water in our households.”
The discovery at the former Du-Wel site was made as a part of Michigan’s efforts to track down PFAS contamination, said DEGLE officials. Because federal guidelines previously required the use of PFAS during the chrome plating process, plating facilities have become a common source of PFAS contamination.
Local officials are also planning to conduct a town hall meeting next week to give residents a chance to gather information and ask questions, Griffin said, though no details have been released.
If residents are using any of the wells being tested, they will be contacted either by phone or in-person by DEGLE’s contractor, Global Remediation Technologies, Inc. Residents with wells in the testing areas can pick up bottled water supplies immediately at the Hartford Fire Department from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Residents may also access additional information on PFAS in Michigan at: Michigan.gov/PFASresponse.