Per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, have been found in shallow groundwater depositories near the Houghton County Memorial Airport. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has announced further testing to determine the scope of the problem. So far, 21 homes have agreed to take part in the water sampling program.
The health department says it is only worried from a public safety perspective about residences hooked up to shallow, older wells. It is looking at groundwater contamination within a one-mile radius of the airport.
PFAS are considered forever chemicals because of their slow degradation in the environment. They have been linked to a myriad range of health issues. They appear in several common materials, everything from non-stick cooking gear to firefighting foam. It is the latter that makes them particularly troublesome for airports. The Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency require yearly drills to assess the readiness of response teams to various potential incidents. Those are typically conducted in the spring here.
Before people realized the potential dangers associated with PFAS, the foam was not carefully monitored after usage, allowing it to seep underground. Wurtsmith Air Force Base in the Lower Peninsula and the Menominee/Marinette area have both been the subject of controversy as to who is responsible for cleanup costs related to contamination.