Cooper Township daycare owner concerned about PFAs water crisis

COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The moment Tambra Craven heard the news that the town’s water system contained elevated levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFA contaminants, in it she quickly came up with a plan to keep her kids healthy.

“They issued the emergency order that Thursday night [in July],” Craven said during an interview at her daycare center Tams Sunshine House. “At 12:01, I issued our statement of protocol [and] sent a letter off to Gordon’s Water Aervice, saying I needed somebody to contact me immediately."

That following Monday morning, the first delivery arrived. It hasn’t stopped since. Craven said she’s grateful for the help. However she wonders when health officials will put a permanent plan in place.

“If you go in right now and turn in our tap water it smells like nothing but bleach,” Craven said. “It’s chlorine. It’s really potent stuff and so that tells me there’s bacteria in those lines.”

Her daycare center uses Parchment city water. Weeks ago, state and local officials began switching the city’s water to Kalamazoo city’s water system. Thursday they announced that those who live in a one-mile radius of a well in Parchment and Cooper Township will receive a free water filter.

“But for the people and residents that are hooked up to the city water, we get told that indefinitely we’re on bottled water,” she said.

It’s what Craven’s been using, in addition to Gordon’s water, since the news broke in late July, she said. The city began giving out two free cases of bottled water at that time to residents who picked them up at Parchment High School from noon to 8 p.m. It’s since changed locations to the Haven Reformed Church on Sprinkle Road from 2-7 p.m. The time change, she said, has made it harder for her to retrieve the cases. It’s also altered her young student’s daily routines.

“We were explaining to them the very first day because they could no longer brush their teeth with the sink water,” she said. “So then you're educating them. It’s called PFAs and PFAs is byproduct of chemicals for us to use things.”

Now her students, ranging from four-months-old to middle school age, know to always get their water from the “big blue jug.” As much as she’d like officials to come up with a longterm plan, she’d like to install her own water filtration system for the whole daycare which is in a house. However it’ll cost $6,500.

“I told a parent this morning ‘I have credit card, I could whip it out and pay for the flirtation system with the credit card,’” she said. “But I then have debt, which I really don’t want to spend it on that.”

She’s even considered dipping into her retirement fund to see if she can pay for one. But it still too costly. Now she's looking into whether or not officials are offering grants to help businesses and homeowners get through this time.

“The governor signed the emergency order,” she said. “There should be funds available that homeowners can apply for to get systems or full house systems.”

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