Update: Residents are unaware
well water is contaminated
Editor’s note: We’re releasing this story online earlier than usual because today we heard from environmental activist Dan Bicknell.
On Monday, Dan Bicknell visited the residents and businesses on several properties along Jackson Road that all use a potable water well that has been contaminated with dioxane at 17 parts per billion, well above the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe level for drinking water, but below the current state standard of 85 ppb.
Bicknell, who in 1984 discovered a toxic dump into nearby Saginaw Forest, wanted to know whether any of these residents knew their drinking water is contaminated. None of the people he talked to Monday knew. Some of the people he spoke to said they use bottled water because they don’t like the taste of the well water.
But then there is Wesley Pate. He lives in his home with his wife and three small children. His oldest is three. The Pates didn’t know about the dioxane, either.
Pate’s family used the water for all day-to-day needs, including mixing baby formula. Pate reports multiple health problems in his family. His wife has liver trouble. One of his children has seen six or seven doctors because he is unable to gain weight. It’s not clear that dioxane is the cause. Pate says the doctors don’t know what’s causing the health problems. But the anger and fear of this father who yesterday discovered he has been giving his children contaminated water is palpable.
Pate on Tuesday said he would try to move out of his house as soon as he can. Asked whether he’d heard from state officials, he said he hadn’t. He’d been speaking with Bicknell (who has contacted Washtenaw County Public Health on Pate’s behalf) and also with two reporters.
Pate says he’s on “high alert.” He’s just not sure what to expect in terms of possible side effects from the exposure. “I wouldn’t have even moved into that house if I had known,” he says. “Not with my children. I mean, my children are my first priority.”
He wonders why state officials haven’t taken initiative. No one knocked on his door to let him know about the problem. Before Bicknell.
Bicknell says it’s just another example of DEQ failure. “Generally,” he says, “on any cleanup site, one of the first things you develop is a community communications plan.”
Decades of dioxane