Source of Pullman contamination still unknown

Ryan Lewis, Editor

As the drinking water advisory persists for residents of Pullman’s Mystic View apartment complex, the Michigan Department of Environmental Health is busy testing the water.

A routine water test May 10 showed high levels of cadmium. The water is safe for bathing but not drinking, as cadmium damages kidneys, lungs and bones when ingested.

As of June 25, the department had not yet determined the source of the cadmium, so it may or may not mean the groundwater is contaminated, according to Heather Bishop, district supervisor at MDEQ’s Kalamazoo office.

Bishop said, “We currently have results for a complete metals analysis for four of the 12 wells at Mystic View.”

None of those four wells showed elevated levels for any of the metals tested for, including antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and thallium. Community water supplies are all required to be tested for these elements.

She said, “We did have one elevated lead result”—at more than 15 parts per billion—“from one well, but it was re-sampled and the new results were below 15 ppb.”

She said lead wasn’t regulated at the point of entry of a water system anyway, so it doesn’t result in a violation.

The remaining eight wells were sampled June 19 and results were expected soon.

“Lab turn-around time can take up to 10 days under normal circumstances,” Bishop said. “We have not established a routine sampling frequency at this time, as we are still trying to quantify the cadmium and its source.

“The owner of Mystic View and DEQ are looking into the various sources of cadmium and reasons it could be present in the samples and in a drinking water system.”

That source will play a role in determining how long the water will be unsafe to drink.

Bishop said the water could be treated to remove the cadmium.

“The Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act lists multiple approved treatment methods for cadmium, should treatment be an appropriate avenue to explore,” she said. “We are investigating the source of cadmium at this time, and will make decisions about resolution and treatment at the end of the investigation.

“Our goal is to resolve this as quickly as possible; however, it is difficult to say how long that might take until the cadmium investigation is complete.”

According to Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, eating food or drinking water with very high levels of cadmium severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.

Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones. The EPA lists it a probable human carcinogen.

The normal limit for cadmium in drinking water is 0.005 mg per liter, or 5 parts per billion.

All of the samples taken May 10 at the apartment complex’s Type 1 well water supply showed up at levels that ranged from 0.063 parts per million to 0.082 ppm.

Contact Ryan Lewis at or (269) 673-5534.


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