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Water Contamination Discovered at Michigan Elementary School


Do not drink water sign

On September 18, 2018, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) released a statement that drinking water at Robinson Elementary School in Grand Haven, Michigan tested positive for elevated levels of PFAS. After the discovery, students and staff were provided with bottled water. In late October, follow-up tests found PFAS levels of 171 parts per trillion, which was even higher than the 144 parts per trillion discovered in September. The source of the contamination has yet to be identified.

Robinson Elementary is the only school in the Grand Haven Area Public Schools District that draws its water supplies from well water and no other district schools tested positive for PFAS. As of early November, plans were in the works to test water from 25 properties with wells situated north and northeast of the school. The MDEQ started conducting routine tests of drinking water at all schools that use well and community water supplies after high levels of PFAS contamination showed up at wells around the state including in the Rockford and Belmont areas and Parchment.

What are PFAS?

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These manmade chemicals are manufactured and used in different industries across the world, including the U.S. since the 1940s. This category includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many other potentially dangerous chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), specific PFAS, especially PFOA and PFOS can accumulate and stay in the human body for extended periods of time and cause adverse health outcomes.

Safe PFAS and PFOS Levels

To provide everyone in the U.S. with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFAS and PFOS from drinking water, the EPA established health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion. Any contamination exceeding these levels is considered unsafe with the potential to cause an array of exposure-related health effects including cancer.

The Larger PFAS Problem in Michigan

In late August, it was determined more than 1.5 million people in Michigan had unknowingly been drinking water contaminated with PFAS. The contaminated water supplies were sourced from the Great Lakes and the Huron River. Unlike the water at Robinson Elementary School, almost all contamination levels were below the EPA safety threshold. Nevertheless, a group of activists, state lawmakers and Rockford school leaders are pushing for legislation that sets far more stringent standards for chemical contamination levels than the EPA.

Protect Your Family From PFAS

According to our lab technician no filtration method currently available is certified to reduce the level of PFAS like GenX in your water below the EPA established health advisory level.

A recent Harvard study on PFAS concluded that GAC carbon filters like those found in our POE Whole House Water Filtration System and in our 6-Stage Reserve Osmosis Filters are the best consumer products for combatting PFAS contamination, though the study also said that many store-bought filtration systems are not equipped to effectively filter PFAS contaminants.

Better standards are always in development to test POE systems, and at Pelican Water we are constantly testing our POU systems for removal of contaminants like PFAS. Our reverse osmosis system currently has NSF 58 certification, and our countertop drinking filter has NSF 42 and 53 certification. Our recommendation is to invest in a Countertop Drinking Filter at minimum, and pair it with a Whole House Water Filtration System if you have the means.

If you’re not certain about potential contaminants in your water, we suggest scheduling a free no obligation in-home consultation to select the best water filtration system for your home. Installing the right whole house water filter or water filtration system will give you peace of mind in case a similar situation to Robinson Elementary happens in your community. Our professionals will evaluate your water quality and determine which system is best for your unique situation.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter