FLINT, MI — The authority created to clean up and market abandoned General Motors’ properties nationwide says testing is being expanded in an area of the old Buick City site along Hamilton Avenue where testing this year has shown very high levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in soil and groundwater.
Officials from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust updated its work on the property during a virtual meeting Thursday, Oct. 22, including testing planned in the next several weeks around Building 44, which included a paint operation.
Testing this year in the same area has shown PFOS levels of more than 100,000 parts per trillion in both soil and water, leading to the additional testing and efforts aimed at preventing contamination from entering storm sewers and the Flint River.
PFOS is one of two types of PFAS chemicals regulated in Michigan due to health risks from the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. The state allows 12 parts per trillion in surface water, and it holds a wastewater plant accountable under its federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting if discharged levels are higher.
“We are hitting high concentrations in ground water … (and) in soil sampling sites,” said Grant Trigger, cleanup manager for RACER Trust, which manages the more than 400-acre property and others that GM gave it up during its bankruptcy more than a decade ago.
“Our understanding of the site grows as we increase sampling, (and we now know) there is an association between PFAS found in the soils and in the ground water,” Trigger said.
Additional testing will help further pinpoint the extent and source of the contamination, officials said.
“It’s kind of like you’re following bread crumbs,” Trigger said of the continued testing of soil and water. “We are following that path.”
Work to reroute storm sewers on the property to new storm sewer lines with sealed connections is nearing completion, officials said, potentially ending the flow of PFAS to the Flint River.
Trigger said the old lines on property leaked, allowing contaminated ground water to infiltrate.
As early as 2018, testing on the property showed PFAS moving through the storm sewer system into the river, which the city of Flint used for its drinking water source in parts of 2014 and 2015.
Although PFAS have been identified in the soil and groundwater at Buick City, the contaminated groundwater at the property is not used for drinking water or for any other purpose.
Testing of water wells located near the Buick City property have not identified any contamination, including lead or PFAS from the site, that has or potentially could contaminate any drinking water sources, RACER officials have said.
The Buick City property was used for automotive production dating back to the late 1800s — before the area was used as a Buick Motor Company factory in 1903. General Motors Corp. operated factories…