Two communities told to stop drinking the water


Two communities in the region are being warned that high amounts of toxic industrial chemicals have been discovered in the water supply and that residents must immediately stop drinking or cooking with that water.

Michigan and Kalamazoo County health officials announced today that tests found per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in the water supplied to the City of Parchment and Cooper Township.

"As soon as the tests results were reported, the state and local agencies tasked with protecting public health and our environment began coordinating a response," Governor Rick Snyder said.

About 3,000 people are on the affected water system. Snyder directed free bottled water to be distributed to residents today.

Some studies suggest the chemicals might affect fetal development, disrupt hormonal functions, damage fertility and immune systems and boost the risk of cancer.

PFAS are increasingly turning up in water systems across the country. Scott Pruitt called the issue a "national priority" before resigning as Environmental Protection Agency administrator this year. In Michigan, the Legislature enacted $23 million in emergency spending to address PFAS contamination, as efforts continued to help the City of Flint recover from its crisis with lead-tainted water.

The tests for PFAS were part of an effort announced in May to check for contamination in Michigan's 1,380 public water systems.

The chemicals found in Parchment's water are used in manufacturing, firefighting and thousands of household and consumer products. The source of the contamination is under investigation. The area has a history of paper manufacturing.

Parchment's water system is being drained and will be connected to nearby Kalamazoo's water system, officials said. Kalamazoo will flush Parchment's water supply system until tests show the PFAS at acceptable levels. After that, officials will determine when affected residents can use the main water supply again.

Officials are also advising people not to use water for making baby formula or rinsing fruits and vegetables. Boiling water or using common residential filters won't remove PFAS, authorities said. People can bathe and wash clothes, however.

Snyder late yesterday directed the state departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services and the State Police to assist residents of Parchment and Cooper Township.

"Our first priority is the health of residents in the Parchment and Cooper Township area and to ensure they have access to safe drinking water," Snyder said.

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