Testing Shows Areas Impacted, and Not Impacted, by Former Falk Road Landfill PFAS
(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 12, 2021)
Holly, MI – There is a 40 acre patch of land on Falk Road in Holly Township that looks much the same as other wooded areas around the relatively rural northern Oakland County community. But beneath the surface are places where the impacts of garbage left there long ago remain.
The Falk Road landfill was a place to dump lawn and leaf refuse as well as other unidentified garbage from the 1920s to the 1980s. It was also used as a shooting range in the 1980s. The site has been left mainly to the will of nature since the closure, although there are testing wells throughout the property, and a fence with a gate to keep out trespassers.
The land, which is just north of E. Holly Road, is owned by the Village of Holly, though it’s located in Holly Township outside of the Village limits. The Village is working with The State of Michigan on testing and control efforts for PFAS pollution found on the site.
The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team – made up of several governmental agencies – works collaboratively to address contaminated sites throughout the State. Their website describes PFAS, stating “Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS have been used globally during the past century in manufacturing, firefighting and thousands of common household and other consumer products. These chemicals are persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. In recent years, experts have become increasingly concerned by the potential effects of high concentrations of PFAS on human health.”
Members of the PFAS Action Response Team hosted an online community meeting on May 10 where over 30 people tuned in to learn about test results on the Falk Road landfill site, and what the plan is moving forward.
There were 32 samples taken at 24 monitoring wells, with four of the wells showing PFAS levels above the action level set by the state, and 11 showing some PFAS but below the action criteria. There was also one home near the site that had sufficient contamination in their water to require the addition of a water filter.
The PFAS Action Response Team did an in-depth look at the waterways in the area, as well as drainage patterns with the goal of understanding water flow and how contaminants may or may not spread. Bush Lake and the Shiawassee River both tested free of contamination, as did the water supply for the Holly Hills community located across the street from the site.
All residents of Holly Hills get their water from the same well, which is in the NE portion of the property. Falk Road is at the West end. Testing showed the water to be free of contamination.
Water quality at Holly Hills is also regularly monitored as part of state requirements for manufactured housing communities.
OTHER TESTING AND FUTURE PLANS
Apart from the Holly Hills well, ten residential wells were tested, with the one mentioned earlier having a PFOA level of 18ppt. The state action level is is 8ppt. The resident was provided a water filer. The other 9 homes did not have detectable PFAS levels.
Understanding how PFAS exposure happens and how to prevent it may help ease some worries or guide prevention efforts.
Rosa Jaiman of Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services explained that with PFAS, “exposure through skin is not a concern so you can continue to use your water for cleaning and for a shower” if you are in an affected area.
Ingesting PFAS is more of a health concern. PFAS remain in a person or animal’s body and can accumulate over time. Exposure can come from contaminated well water, ingesting water from a contaminated waterway as in when swimming, or eating an animal that has PFAS accumulated in it, such as fish.
Jaiman added, “Usually people need to be exposed long term before health problems arise.”
Kim Etheridge of Michigan’s EGLE is the site lead on the Falk Road landfill. She shared more information about the timeline of testing on the site and more details of the results, all of which can be found on the State’s Falk Road Landfill page.
Etheridge said they plan to do testing at more homes in the area at no cost to the homeowners. They will also continue to monitor the test wells on the property. “We’re going to follow the data and see where it leads us,” she said.
After the presentation, Village Manager Jerry Walker told Oakland County Times “We are working with EGLE on the ongoing sampling. We are anxious to conclude sampling so we can work with EGLE in developing a monitoring system going forward.”
For more information on the Falk Road site, including details of the testing and a timeline, visit the State’s Falk Road Landfill page.