Is my water safe? Water testing, pending legislation, and health study

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- "Is my water safe?" It's a growing question that will continue for many residents in the Rockford area as investigations continue to reveal health implications of chemicals Wolverine Worldwide dumped for years.

The Kent County Health Department is conducting its most comprehensive cancer-cluster study near known Wolverine dumping sites. The study is ongoing and in response to dangerous chemicals-detected to be perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs)-found in Rockford area well water. Within 30 days, county health officials say they will have more information including the timeline of their study.

Kent County Health Department updates and resources

Meanwhile, there are water filtration systems that have been tested in the Rockford area and brought water levels within a recommended level. Gordon Water Systems Vice President Tom Duisterhof says they implemented their filtration system in an affected Rockford area home and, according to testing done in part by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, it worked: using their twin tank catalytic carbon system and their reverse osmosis tank.

"If you think about home owner’s insurance, you don’t buy homeowner’s insurance during a fire, you buy it because you need it, just in case," said Duisterhof.

"Investing in the quality of water that you bathe, clean and drink is not too dissimilar: you want to invest in that because you don’t know when you might test for a contaminant, in this case maybe a PFC."

He says their Gordon Water Systems filtration system costs about $4,500 and testing water for PFCs costs about $300. And while he and his family-run business believe they have a solution that works, they say "this is no celebratory time."

"There’s an EPA list of 300,000 contaminants out there: you can’t test for them all at any given time, it wouldn’t be practical, and you can’t test all the time," said Duisterhof.

"And that’s what a complete system with redundancy, especially in this case with PFCs, having a whole home treatment as well as the reverse osmosis drinking water system. Then you’ve got redundancy and you are covered."

Simultaneously in Lansing, House Bill 4205 passed the House and is pending vote in the Senate. It would stop Michigan from setting environmental rules and regulations any stricter than the federal government. West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) Executive Director Bill Wood warned the contaminants found in response to Wolverine dumping is an example of why this legislation must not pass.

"The science isn’t real strong yet to know how much is a hazard, and it seems like every time you turn around, that level goes up," said Wood to FOX 17 Friday.

"I just want to emphasize again that I think Michigan needs to be able to set its own limits as to what this is, because we’ve got a real frightening and kind of unique situation on our hands."

WMEAC has been working alongside other agencies including the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Redevelopment in the Rockford area, which was one of the first to help bring this contamination emergency to light. Wood advocates that Michigan not only stop HB 4205 from passing, but enact stricter water safety standards like other states including New Jersey.

"We finally have the science to be able to detect how small of a level it takes to be of concern," said Wood.

"I’m going to repeat the same line that other people are saying: we don’t really know the health effects, I think we’ve been turned on accident into guinea pigs for this."