GRAYLING — Talks meant to address state procedures that allowed officials to wait eight months before notifying people they suspected were drinking contaminated well water have thus far occurred behind closed doors.
Public backlash over the eight months that passed between when state environment and local health officials launched a probe into potential PFAS contamination in East Bay Township, and when the nearly 20 suspected at-risk homeowners were notified, sparked state authorities to take action. State officials tasked a citizens advisory subcommittee to create a remedy.
It’s a delay procedure the Record-Eagle has learned allowed homeowners who live near other, previously discovered, contamination sites to also continue drinking contaminated water for months before they were told of potential contamination.
At least two work sessions already took place — without public notice — which prompted some to criticize the process as happening secretly. Given the goal is to improve public notice protocols, critics argued the irony was profound.
Officials said the next meeting on April 13 will be posted for public participation, and they are set to decide whether the subcommittee should proceed.
Grayling Township Supervisor Lacey Stephan said residents impacted by PFAS contamination in his Crawford County community in 2016 received quick notice of the discovered problem, and had filters installed at their kitchen sinks in short order — unlike the impacted residents in East Bay Township in Grand Traverse County.
“As soon as it was discovered at the airfield they went and did some tests on private wells,” Stephan said. “Then they instantly offered people point-of-use filters even before their test results came back.”
Hundreds of Grayling Township residents have been using those sink-side filter systems since then, and more than a dozen with PFAS levels beyond the federal lifetime health advisory limit of 70 ppt had whole-house filters installed. Michigan Army National Guard officials recently said they await lab results for the house filters before giving the OK for those residents to again safely consume tap water at home.
Stephan said it’s expected even more homes may have the whole-house filters installed should military officials adopt state safety thresholds established last year, as promised.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week invoked national defense policy legislation to force the Pentagon to adopt the state’s new, lower PFAS standards when cleaning up Camp Grayling and other military contamination sites, such as the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.
Stephan said he guesses the prompt response by state authorities regarding Grayling’s PFAS pollution was because it was among the earliest discovered in Michigan. No…