Calley declares emergency in Kalamazoo County over tainted water

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Sunday declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo County after high levels of contaminants were found in the drinking water.

“This declaration will allow the state to supply additional resources to help with response efforts and ensure the health and safety of residents in Parchment and Cooper Township,” Calley said in a statement. “State and local officials and members of the community have been working in full partnership to ensure people in the area have safe water in the short, medium and long term.

More:2 Kalamazoo Co. communities shaken by contaminants in water

More:Bottled water continues for towns with PFAS tainting


Michigan Lt. Gov Brian Calley

Problems with the water were discovered on July 26 when test results showed the municipal water system in Parchment, which serves about 3,100 residents in Parchment and Cooper Township, had an unacceptable level of the nationally emerging contaminants known collectively as PFAS. 

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl are chemicals that  have been used in firefighting foams, food packaged in the materials, and in commercial household products or manufacturing facilities. 

Health officials say long-term exposure to the chemicals in drinking water could harm human health, with links to issues such as thyroid, kidney, heart and reproductive problems.

“The level of cooperation and teamwork has been excellent and the entire community should be proud of how Kalamazoo County has come together during this trying time,” Calley said in his statement

All state resources now can be made available by declaring a state of emergency. It authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate state efforts.

Thousands of bottles of water have been distributed to the two communities. Volunteers ranging from firefighters to high school students turned out Saturday in Parchment for a second day of free water distribution.

 Testing was conducted as part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s  effort to test all water systems for these chemicals. 

Legislative Democrats said the discovery of tainted water shows the state was negligent in not warning residents of Parchment city and Cooper townships sooner. But Snyder administration officials said the testing for PFAS substances, in small-town water systems is unique and proactive.

A Thursday test showed a concentration of more than 1,500 parts per trillion of PFAS coming from Parchment's water supply, more than 20 times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, according to an operator on the Parchment water hotline.

A 2012 EPA rule requires testing for PFAS in communities with 10,000 or more people. Parchment has an estimated 1,844 people.