TRAVERSE CITY – Travel vouchers to offset costs associated with public water connections for affected residents have been launched as part of discussions around an investigation into PFAS water contamination in the Township of East Bay. Grand Traverse County Board Chairman Rob Hentschel suggested in an email to Cherry Capital According to information released to Record-Eagle under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, Hentschel mentioned the concept before local leaders get grant funds to pay. the 18 public connections required for the affected homes still use well water; the idea was that if the grant funds could not be acquired, perhaps the travel vouchers could be a compromise – an authorized use of restricted airport dollars. Some of the affected residents and environmental experts criticized the suggestion as being irresponsible in the face of revelations about contaminated drinking water and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local officials, however, said it was the result of brainstorming and was never intended for the public. Clean Water, Travel Vouchers The email in question with the line of subject line “$ 3,900 PFAS Travel Voucher” was sent Nov 9 from Hentschel to airport manager Keven Klein and read: “Random thought … sitting at the East Bay twp meeting … If we don’t can’t pay for the capping of neighboring wells and municipal water hooks … can we run a promotion with the airlines for the travel vouchers in You’ll be happy to know they haven’t thrown the airport under the bus. Not a single mention of the airport … – Rob “Some residents and concerned environmental experts have said that such a travel voucher idea is reprehensible.” It would have been an insult, “said Joyce Lundberg, whose well water for her home along Indian Trail Boulevard was among those contaminated with PFAS chemicals.” What would we do with travel vouchers in the midst of a pandemic ? We wanted clean water. ”Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the nonprofit For Love Of Water, said she was initially“ a little speechless ”when she learned the suggestion of travel vouchers for those with contaminated wells FLOW is a Traverse City-based organization that advocates for groundwater protection and will host a webinar on March 10 on threats to Michigan’s groundwater resources. communities by PFAS said the emerging family of chemical contaminants holds untold potential for problems of environmental injustice – especially given its long-term and widespread use at d he industrial, aeronautical and commercial purposes and the way pollutants are increasingly present in drinking water. way to have a drink of your refreshing well water and know if it’s contaminated with PFAS, ”said Alissa Cordner, as a sociological professor of sociology at Whitman College in Washington and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab with researchers at Northeastern University in Boston, she said that often communities subject to PFAS contamination have historically experienced other types of pollution and tend not to be wealthy. Pine Grove mirrors this trend with its blue collar workers and history of a TCE plume, which prompted public water to flow through the neighborhood decades ago, but not all connected homes back then. not always in a financial position to do much about it, indicating the need for broader systemic changes in the way toxic chemicals are produced and used. people affected by pollution, she said an offer of “It seems clear to me that a small travel voucher and continued contamination of drinking water is not up to the mark,” Cordner said. Hentschel said his email to the airport manager should be considered in perspective; it was a private email not intended for public presentation, he said. “There is no evidence that it came from the airport, but we wanted to do something,” Hentschel said. Because airport funds are limited to airport operations and promotion, he said the suggestion was right that he was looking for ways to help affected residents. “These are raw ideas,” Hentschel said, later adding that the idea “was not to ride. For the public, but to think outside the box.” Klein also said Hentschel’s idea was an attempt to come up with a solution through brainstorming. But it wouldn’t have been appropriate to make that offer to affected residents, he said. “I think what he was trying to say was that ‘is “we have to be more creative” “said the airport manager. said they might have actually taken advantage of such a travel voucher, if subsidies had not been found to pay for their public water hookups. But that wouldn’t fly for everyone. “I appreciate Rob’s efforts for sure,” said Hillerie Rettelle, who lives on Avenue B and whose well has returned a collective. of more than 840 pieces per trillion of PFAS chemicals – as many as 35 times that of the state. Rettelle said Hentschel has worked Hard to get public water connections as quickly as possible for affected residents and tried to help them get back the money they spent preparing for public water connections when they were not satisfied to wait for government action. As much as she could appreciate a travel voucher, Rettelle said she knew not all affected residents were able to use it. Some would not have connected to public water if the subsidies had not been secured, she said. “If you can’t afford to connect to clean drinking water, you can’t afford to go on vacation,” Rettelle said, adding that during a pandemic people are even less likely to want to travel. “In November, if they had asked me if I wanted a travel voucher or clean water, it would have been 100% clean water,” she said. of affected residents, said she was not offended by Hentschel’s suggestion. She said she even joked that the airport paid for their family’s travel in perpetuity, if identified as the source of contamination. “I joked that if it ended up being the airport’s fault, the air miles could be greatly appreciated.” Contractors at Matt’s Underground Construction in Kalkaska spent the last week connecting homes with PFAS-contaminated water wells to municipal water supplies, first along Avenue B and then down the avenue C. its well was among the highest concentrations in the neighborhood. She hadn’t showered at home because her surgeon had told her that a healing wound from shoulder surgery should not be exposed to pollution. State and local health warned her not to drink or cook with water in October, she said. Rettelle took a shower in her own bathroom Tuesday night for the first time in over four months and described it in one word: “Amazing”. Others are eager to see their connections coming. Lundberg’s well failed last summer and she spent $ 3,000 to repair it after high water levels pushed sand into the pump. It was three months later when she learned of the groundwater contamination, she said. “It was a shock,” Lundberg said. The longtime neighborhood resident, 94, said she was grateful that state, county and township dollars collectively paid for her water. connection to the system, especially after spending so much on his well last July. She chose this out of an offer of $ 25,000 to connect to the water system at the time, Lundberg said. “You know, that’s life. If I had spent the $ 25,000, I was really pissed off, ”she says. .