48ºF

2 Michigan communities told to not use water after industrial chemical contamination found

PFAS was found in the water supply of Parchment and Cooper Townships, Mich. (WDIV)
PFAS was found in the water supply of Parchment and Cooper Townships, Mich. (WDIV)

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. – Kalamazoo County officials have started to hand out bottled water to residents after finding the likely carcinogen PFAS in the water supply at levels up to 20 times higher than federal safety standards.

WOODTV reports people started showing up early Friday morning to get bottled water. They've given out roughly 10,000 cases.

Those among the 3,000 people on the Parchment water system lined up at Parchment High School for bottled water. Volunteers include players from the parchment football team. 

"We had football camp this week and we knew this happened yesterday," said Parchment football coach Wayne Hinton. "So, we practice servant leadership and this is a good example of that." 

"I'm shocked at how well they're organized and the number of kids and adults and volunteers that they have," said resident Melanie Waltz. "It is a little nerve-wracking to know how long has it been potentially harmful."

Most residents are trying to remain realistic about the contamination. 

"Just roll with the punches. You can't get upset." said resident Jerry Roush. "I know the stores got some and you just have to deal with it."

Several questions remain though -- why is PFAS in Parchment's water -- how long has it been there and does it spread to private wells as well?

RELATED: What is 'PFAS' and how can it affect your health? Here's what you should know

"It all depends on how big the plume is," said Vern Johnson, the environmental health director with Kalamazoo County.  "We're still trying to evaluate that direction of flow and whether they could be potentially impacted or not."

The county is still investigating while elected officials evaluate what's next as another community is now impacted by PFAS contamination.

"There may be more Parchments in the state," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton. "We're gonna find out really soon, but you've got 49 other states that aren't really doing any testing at all."

The Kalamazoo Township police chief estimates they have 10 days worth of water for the more than 3,000 residents affected.