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Experts warn of coal ash contamination in Delta Township well water

Dozens of residents sit in front of experts going through a slideshow in a wooden building.
Arjun Thakkar
Experts and Delta Township residents gathered at the Woldumar Nature Center to speak about possible contamination of their private water wells.

Environmental experts are warning about possible drinking water contamination in Delta Township stemming from a recently decommissioned coal-fired power plant.

Testing indicates the Erickson Power Station leaked coal ash and chemicals like boron and lithium into groundwater beneath the region. Elevated concentrations of contaminants have also been found in private water wells near the station.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light retired the facility in November 2022.The utility has been testing wells near the plant and finding traces of the chemical compounds. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is investigating if the plant is responsible for the pollutants.

Close to 50 residents gathered at the Woldumar Nature Center Thursday to learn about the utility's remediation efforts. The panel was organized by the Capitol Area Friends of the Environment.

Discussion centered around whether the chemical compounds found in private water wells are "naturally occurring." The Saginaw Aquifer, which provides much of mid-Michigan's drinking water, is known to contain shale and other materials that could be transmitting boron and lithium into water wells.

Utility officials previously stated BWL customers are not affected by the contamination.

State regulators said the BWL is required to outline pollution exposure and submit a plan detailing how the utility will remedy its effects on residents within the coming months.

Environmental scientists warn excess exposure to the identified contaminants can cause a number of symptoms, including coughing, headaches and kidney or liver damage.

“People who are being exposed right now need to be provided with another source of water, from a clean source so they’re not drinking these contaminants for decades and decades and decades,” said Wilma Subra, an environmental consultant invited to speak at the panel.

Multiple residents asked state regulators if they recommend drinking the water in their homes, which is provided by the private wells. EGLE representatives did not provide guidance, deferring their opinion to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for creating health advisories.

The state health department has not issued guidelines for drinking water in the impacted area.

Jonathan Kermiet lives downstream from the plant and helped put together the panel. He said the community should be aware of the pollution.

“What we wanted to try to accomplish tonight was to let the community know that there that there are issues that are still unresolved," Kermiet said. "They probably shouldn’t be drinking their water until they know for sure the extent of the contamination."

Residents near the plant can contact the BWL to request deliveries of bottled water or water filters.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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