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Unsafe levels of PFAS found at Fisher Body site in Lansing

RACER Trust working to clean up the site of the old Fisher Body plant
Posted at 9:12 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 09:12:20-04

LANSING, Mich. — The contaminant PFAS has been found at the former site of the Fisher Body Plant on Lansing's west side at levels more than twelve times what's considered safe.

RACER Trust says they're working to fix the problem.

RACER Trust plant clean-up

“The first steps: determine the extent of it and try to monitor for a while to see whether or not any concentrations are increasing or decreasing," said Dave Favero, Michigan deputy clean-up manager for RACER Trust. "Right now, everything seems to be stable, which is a good thing.”

RACER Trust was created following the GM's bankruptcy in 2009 to take over former GM locations, clean them up and redevelop them for reuse. The trust is now responsible for cleanups at approximately 60 locations, including the former Fisher Body site.

Dave Favero, Michigan Deputy Clean-up manager for RACER Trust

“We made a lot of progress in relation to PFAS, particularly preventing impacted groundwater from infiltrating into sewers and then discharging somewhere offsite. So we prevented a lot of that," Favero said. "We still need to monitor and understand its movement a little bit better, and the extent around Plant 6, and then we’ll be able to focus on a longer-term management strategy.”

So, what is PFAS?

PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals that were used to protect carpet and fabric and in firefighting foams.

Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure, but some research suggests that high levels could increase cholesterol levels, the risk of thyroid disease and the risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Exposure could also decrease fertility in women.

RACER Trust plant clean-up

RACER Trust officials have known for years that the site is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a flammable liquid that is likely carcinogenic to humans.

“PFAS and 1,4-dioxane are not very volatile, so the real potential exposure for residents is drinking it,” Favero said.

Levels for PFAS need to be 8-parts-per-trillion or less to be considered safe. Currently, at the site, they are 100-parts-per-trillion. Levels of 1,4-dioxane, which need to be 7.2-parts-per-billion or less, are more like a few hundred parts per billion.

“Getting rid of them is a great objective…it’s really nearly impossible to get rid of all of it…so there’s likely to be contaminants at the property for a long time,” Favero said.

So, do we have reason to be concerned? Favero says no.

The old Fisher Body plant on the Lansing's west side

"The residents near the plant receive their drinking water from the Board of Water and Light, and they have a treatment process…and as far as I understand it, their water is clean and acceptable quality. So, any residents should not be exposed to groundwater related to our site. For the most part…the contamination is on the property. But, for what little isn’t, were not aware of anybody using that shallow groundwater for drinking water,” Favero said.

James Logan has lived across the street from the plant for 40 years. He said he has never been concerned that contaminants could leach into his water.

James Logan has lived across from the plant for 40 years

"Because we have Lansing city water," Logan said. "I know that they've taken groundwater samples...every so often they're out here to see, you know, how far it's seeping out, I guess."

Starting next week, RACER will install eight collection borings east and north of the plant to test the groundwater for PFAS.

For more information about RACER Trust, PFAs and 1,4-dioxane, click here.

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12:23 PM, Jan 12, 2021
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