Robinson Elementary PFAS Water Issue
On Monday, October 29th, 2018, Grand Haven Area Public Schools were notified by The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that Robinson Elementary School’s water supply tested positive for the presence of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in an amount greater than the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) level. School officials were immediately notified, bottled water was immediately provided to our students and we are taking every precaution moving forward. The letter below outlines the background behind this newly-emerging contaminant, as well as Grand Haven Area Public School’s continued plan to ensure the safety of our students.
Update: January 21, 2021
Robinson Elementary Water Filtration System is Approved for Normal Use
After extensive testing, we have received approval from the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) to resume normal use of our water at Robinson Elementary. This includes drinking water from our bottle fill stations.
Our new water filtration system is an innovative ion filtration system designed by Fishbeck, Inc. It was successfully installed last February, followed by comprehensive testing to monitor the water’s alkalinity, calcium content, chloride content, conductivity, pH, sulfate content, temperature, lead content, copper content and PFAS. The school also has a new well and pump, which was a set of needs identified while installing the new filtration system.
Testing summaries and additional information are available below. Ongoing testing will ensure the continued safety of Robinson’s water supply, and the district will still offer bottled drinking water to families who request it.
Update: October 30, 2020
October 30, 2020
Update on Robinson Elementary Water Filtration System
● The new water filtration system, which was installed in February, continues to operate as intended.
● Thus far, test results for PFAS, lead and copper confirm the safety of our drinking water.
● A summary of our lead and copper testing, provided by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), has been posted at Robinson and is available below. All drinking sources measure zero milligrams per liter. Trace levels in certain sinks, which are not used for drinking water, are well below acceptable limits.
● We are entering our final round of water quality testing with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.
● Until all water quality testing protocols are complete, we continue to provide bottled water.
● In January, we expect to open the bottle fill stations. Due to COVID-19 precautions, drinking fountains will not be reopened.
● Our new well and pump – a set of needs identified while installing the new water filtration system – are fully operational. LINK: Lead and Copper Test Results, August 2020
Update on Robinson Elementary Water Filtration System
Our original timeline for installing our new water filtration system estimated that it would be operational by the start of second semester. However, we experienced scheduling delays because much of the work needed to be performed while students and staff were not on-site. We have done our best to minimize these delays, but the time windows were limited.
Last weekend, the engineering team connected our new water filtration system and reported that it is working as intended. We now begin the process of sampling and analyzing our water, including testing protocols for PFAS, lead and copper. This will take approximately two months.
We hope to have the new system fully operational upon our return from Spring Break, but this will depend on the test results. We will continue using bottled water until we have full confidence that our water supply is safe.
During the course of installing the system, the engineering team encountered issues with servicing our well pump. At more than 40 years old, it has served our school well – but we discovered that it is time to refresh and renew this piece of vital equipment. In the short term, the engineers have adjusted the flow and done some re-piping to keep the pump in operation.
But for the long-term functionality of our water system, we have plans to drill a new well and install a new pump over Spring Break. Because this is now considered part of our PFAS-related projects, our existing grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) will cover the cost.
On Monday, October 28, at a Special Board Meeting, the Board of Education approved the purchase and installation of the "potable water treatment system" for Robinson Elementary that has been approved and permitted by the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment and Ottawa County Health department respectively. The district anticipates approximately 4-6 weeks for installation. This will be followed by thorough testing for system for not only PFAS but for all other usual chemicals, including lead and copper.
Update on Robinson Elementary Water Filtration System
On Friday, October 11, we received official approval from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to install the water filtration system at Robinson Elementary.
We are now waiting for our permit from the Ottawa County Health Department, which we expect to receive any day. Therefore, we have scheduled a special Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 28, where we will present details on the water filtration system and request Board approval.
If all goes according to plan, we will begin the installation process in early November. By the start of second semester, we hope to have the system fully operational.
The approval from EGLE outlines specific testing protocols to ensure our new filtration system is providing safe water at Robinson Elementary. This includes not only testing for PFAS, but for all other usual chemicals, including lead and copper. Providing safe water throughout the building has always been, and will continue to be, our absolute goal.
Parents and community members are welcome to attend the special Board meeting on October 28 at 6:30 pm at Robinson Elementary. At that time, we will present extensive information about the system specifications, testing protocols and timelines.
Until the system is fully installed and tested, we will continue using bottled water. We appreciate the continued support and patience of our families and the community as we work together to find the best solutions.
Update on Robinson Elementary Drinking Water Filtration System
District staff has been working with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) - formerly MDEQ, the Ottawa County Health Department and have contracted with an environmental engineer with a collective goal to provide safe drinking water at Robinson Elementary. The design and approval process for the system has proven to take longer than expected. GHAPS has prepared for this possibility and will continue to provide bottled water at Robinson until the system is installed and has been thoroughly tested. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Update on PFAS in Robinson Elementary Water
To our GHAPS Families,
Thank you so much for your patience and support as we continue to work through the detection of PFAS in Robinson Elementary School's water. Our student’s safety is our utmost concern, and we continue to provide bottled water for drinking. We are actively working on system design for an on-site water filtration system. These systems are a long-term, cost-effective solution for the district. Hzhand-washing with tap water continues to be safe, since the route of exposure to PFAS is ingestion. Robinson Township officials confirmed that similar safety steps have been taken at Township buildings in the area.
We’ve been working closely with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE, formerly DEQ), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the Ottawa County Department of Public Health and other local and state agencies to work through next steps. EGLE recently conducted an investigation focused on the area of Robinson Elementary School and the Robinson Township Fire Department (RTFD) and Township Hall to further understand the presence of PFAS in the environment and to potentially identify what caused the PFAS contamination. Soil and groundwater testing identified PFAS at the school and the RTFD property, which indicates a source of PFAS was likely historically released on both properties. However, a distinct source of PFAS has not yet been identified. EGLE will continue to work with Robinson Township and the Grand Haven Area Public Schools to fully delineate the extent of PFAS in groundwater. Details of the investigation results can be found at miOttawa.org/PFAS.
If you are concerned about your child’s exposure to PFAS and their health, please contact your family doctor. We’ve also provided resources below for more information.
Again, the safety of all our students is our top priority. If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to contact Superintendent Andrew Ingall at 616.850.5000. We will keep the website updated with the latest information on testing and resources at http://ghaps.org/our-district/robinson-elementary-pfas-water-issue/. Information can also be found on the Ottawa County Department of Health website : https://www.miottawa.org/pfas/
For information on PFAS, including possible health outcomes, visit these websites:
- State of Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) website serving as the main resource for public information on PFAS contamination in Michigan www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) website including health information, exposure, and links to additional resources www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) website including basic information, U.S. EPA actions, and links to informational resources www.epa.gov/pfas
- PFAS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Factsheet: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/pfasresponse/PFAS_in_Drinking_Water_624844_7.pdf
- Talking to Your Doctor Factsheet: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfc/docs/Talking_to_Doctor.pdf
GHAPS is actively pursuing options to have a long-term solution on how to provide safe drinking water to our students by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. We want to ensure that we are making the very best choice for a long term solution with all factors considered. This includes consideration of filtration systems and municipal supplies.
We have met with an environmental engineer to explore the process of installing a building-wide system that would filter all the water at Robinson Elementary to remove PFAS. With the volume of water that is used by our school, a filter system will have to be specially designed.
GHAPS representatives were also present at a meeting with Robinson Township and Ottawa County Road Commission to explore the potential of bringing municipal water into Robinson Township. Robinson Township will determine if this is a viable option with input from stakeholders.
Robinson continues to have safe bottled water for students and staff until the problem is resolved.
Robinson Township 120th Avenue PFAS Study Area
Friday, February 8, 2019
5:00pm - 7:30pm
Main Conference Room
Ottawa County Administrative Offices
12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive, MI 49460
Submit a question online for the Q&A portion of the meeting
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in partnership with state and local agencies is continuing to investigate and assess the overall issue in the area of Robinson Elementary School. District officials are in regular communication to receive updates, discuss next steps, and work toward long term solutions. Presently, GHAPS is working with Ottawa County Health Department to obtain permits that would allow for a water filtration system to be engineered and installed. Permits are necessary because Robinson’s well is considered Type II for public use. Additionally, other solutions may be considered as the DEQ is able to more closely identify the source of PFAS in the aquifer. Bottled water will continue to be utilized for drinking at the school until water filtration or other long-term solution is implemented. GHAPS is committed providing safe drinking water to our students and staff.
For information regarding the overall issue please continue to check miottawa.org/pfas for updates.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Superintendent Andrew Ingall at 616.850.5000.
Local and State Links
Resources and Information
Grand Haven Area Public Schools
1415 Beechtree Street
Grand Haven, MI 49417