PARCHMENT, Mich. — Jamie Tyler filled his daughter's stroller with two cases of bottled water at the high school and walked it down Thomas Street, a quarter-mile to his home. When he got there he gave her some.
“Here you wanna drink of this water?” he said to two-year-old Sophia while holding a bottle out for her.
“This water is good baby,” added her mother Laura Haas, sitting on the porch nearby.
Sophia studied it and said “no.”
Tyler picked up the water from Parchment High School Friday morning after state officials reported on Thursday that the municipal drinking water was unsafe to consumer due to high levels of PFAs (polyfluoroalkyl substances). He was among the hundreds of residents who snagged a few cases for their families.
“This water safe to drink. Wanna drink of this water?” he assured her, still holding the water bottle out while she looked at it. “See as smart as she is, she’s scared to drink the water because of the news this morning. That’s sad.”
Sophia glanced at her dad and said “It make us thick.”
Seconds later, she held the bottle in her hands and took a sip. Tyler understood her hesitation, he said. He hasn’t drunk the water in Parchment in years.
“I don’t drink it except of the ice cubes,” he said. “Now that’s even a problem. My family is what concerns me.”
Tyler said he’s known for a long time that there was something wrong with the water. In 2009, he took samples of it and delivered them to the local health department after his dogs got sick.
“All three of them died,” he said. “[I] thought somebody might’ve poisoned them. So pretty sure it was the water, especially ‘cause I use to live right here on Wilson [Avenue] right across from the factories.”
Tyler believes the water contamination stems from the old and abandoned paper mill in town. He believes there’s “tubs of poison" filled with liquid and chemicals buried in the vacant building. Mark Ducharme, a supervisor with the Department of Environmental Quality, said they'll be testing many locations, like the mill, for PFAs in the coming weeks.
“It can also be in materials such as like Scotchgard, which is used to protect fabric and oil-proof papers,” he said during a press conference standing alongside Congressman Fred Upton and Lt. Governor Brian Calley. “So the paper industry [and] plating industry can also be a source where they used it.”
Tyler said he hopes the problem is fixed soon. His and Haas' biggest fear is Sophia getting sick with cancer.
“We’re suppose to have this water to drink and hydrate ourselves,” said Haas. “Not to hurt others [and] hurt the families of the children.”