Pierson family suspects PFAS caused newborn son to have health problems

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PIERSON, Mich.-- Since learning their drinking water may be contaminated with chemicals linked to cancer, a family in rural Montcalm County thinks it could have caused their newborn son's health issues.

Residents in Pierson learned on Thursday  that the nearby Central Sanitary Landfill, which is operated by Republic Services, has extremely high levels of PFAS, likely left behind by decades of dumping by Wolverine Worldwide. The landfill is still in use and has a number of other parties that may have contributed to any contamination.

Nick and Charlene Schultz live with their four children and moved to Pierson five years ago. They currently live inside the boundary of the first phase of homes that will have their well water tested for PFAS. Their 6-month-old son has had trouble gaining weight. Charlene says she carried him to full term but he was born at only five pounds and 12 ounces.

'They didn't know why he was so small when he was born and he has been struggling to gain weight," Charlene tells FOX 17. "He's about 10 now at 6-months old, so he's still not gaining much weight and they don't really now why."

According to the state, studies show animals given high levels of PFAS show effects including low birth weight.

Nick and Charlene say doubling his formula doesn't work. Charlene says other three children, who were all born in Detroit, have never had any health issues. Nicholas' pediatrician suggested they send his blood to a lab in California to test for PFAS, which would cost them over $500. With four kids and a mortgage, that's something they just can't swing.

"No, we're doing a remodel, we've pretty much put all our money into this house. You know, 401(k)'s borrowed to actually buy this place," Charlene says.

The Schultz family also grows most of their own food and meat, with dozens of chickens and pigs that they're worried could be harmed by PFAS. They had their water drawn for testing and are awaiting results. Along with other families in the first phase of testing, they are currently using bottled water provided by Republic Services.

According to state documents, PFAS may be just part of a list of dangerous chemicals contaminating nearby drinking water. Central Sanitary Landfill has a history of hazardous chemicals contaminating groundwater. Those chemicals include 1,2- Dichloroethane, a chemical that increases a risk of cancer. Beneze, a corrosive chemical, has also been detected there at high levels and has been known to eat away at landfill linings, meaning nearby groundwater is vulnerable to anything in the landfill.

Nick and Charlene say the previous owners of the house suffered health issues that they now believe were the result of contamination from the landfill.

Republic Services, the company which owns Central Sanitary Landfill, says there is currently no indication that PFAS are in the drinking water, even though it has been detected at high levels in the groundwater at the landfill.

Central Sanitary Landfill released a statement to FOX 17 reading:

“We sympathize with anyone who has a concern and recognize that the mere process of testing can be worrisome. We want to remind neighbors that to date there has been no indication of significant off-site PFAS impacts, as it relates to the Landfill. But, as an environmentally responsible operator, we believe that the upcoming tests are necessary in order to have more data and a complete picture. The testing team is committed to completing the upcoming samplings as quickly as possible, and the Landfill will work with state and local regulators to share the results with neighbors as soon as the analysis is verified.”

The Schultz's say considering the contamination in Rockford and Plainfield Township in Kent County, they think it's very likely PFAS are already in their water.

"If it's already all over Rockford, the tannery, and they were already dumping here, why do you not have reason to believe if it's already proven to be there?" Charlene says.

In response to residents learning about PFAS found at Central Sanitary Landfill, Wolverine Worldwide provided FOX 17 with the following statement:

"This landfill is operated by Republic Services, and has had multiple users and parties over the years that could have contributed to the potential presence of PFOA and PFOS. Wolverine Worldwide is not involved in testing at this location, was not invited to participate in this public meeting, and therefore has little information about this meeting beyond the public notice. Wolverine also has not been in contact with Republic."

According to state, there are currently ten groundwater monitoring wells being sampled and four more will be added downhill to the areas with the highest concentrations of PFAS.

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