The first phase of PFAS testing at the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field shows higher levels than the state cleanup standard in a variety of samples.
The PFAS investigation at the city’s airport is happening alongside, and independently from, an ongoing investigation by the neighboring Air National Guard base. For more information on that effort, see the “Helmer-Dickman Road Area” page on the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team website, available at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.
This does not affect the city’s drinking water system. We tested city drinking water for PFAS in 2018 and 2020, and found none of the compounds higher than the cleanup standard. We also tested this month, and those results are pending.
This first phase of airport testing focused on soil, groundwater, and stormwater on airport property. The tests found PFAS in a majority of the soil and groundwater samples, with some higher than the Michigan cleanup standard.
Some details from this first phase of testing:
- Areas investigated, where firefighting foam was, or may have been, used in the past:
- 2015 aircraft accident site, in the northeast part of the airfield
- Runway emergency response area, where foam was reportedly used during two emergency landings, in the southern part of the airfield
- A west test site, used for required fire equipment calibration, in the western part of the airfield
- A south test site, used for required fire equipment calibration, in the southern part of the airfield
- Federal Aviation Administration hangar area and foam storage, in the central part of the airfield
- A previous possible airport firefighting equipment storage site, in the central part of the airfield
- LimnoTech tested 56 soil samples and 29 groundwater samples.
- LimnoTech collected four rounds of stormwater samples at multiple airfield locations (three during wet weather, and one during dry weather).
- Testing found no PFAS levels higher than the state groundwater standard at the crash test site.
- PFAS levels were higher than the cleanup standard in 29 of 56 soil samples.
- The state has cleanup criteria for seven PFAS compounds in groundwater. Testing detected six of those in airport groundwater samples. A total of seven samples showed levels higher than the cleanup criteria for at least one compound.
- Stormwater tests found no PFAS levels higher than the surface water quality standards.
PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified as an emerging contaminant of concern. They have been used to produce items like carpet, food wrappers and, relevant to a grant the city received last summer, firefighting foam. These chemicals do not break down in the environment, and studies show they may be harmful.
The city’s airport is an Federal Aviation Regulation Part 139 certified airport (able to serve unscheduled air carrier operations with 31 seats or more), and these certified airports are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to use firefighting foams that contain PFAS, because they best handle fires involving jet fuel.
The city received a $196,093 state grant last year to test for possible PFAS contamination at our airport. This week we submitted to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy a report summarizing the first phase of investigation from LimnoTech, an environmental engineering firm based in Ann Arbor.
The investigation is focused on areas where the City of Battle Creek aircraft rescue and firefighting services are known or believed to have used firefighting foam. The city took over airport firefighting services from the Michigan Air National Guard in 2014; the grant allows investigation only of non-military airport areas.
The airport will propose to the state additional testing activities under the current grant. These would be focused on groundwater where LimnoTech found PFAS levels higher than the cleanup criteria during Phase 1, and include additional sampling and monitoring well installation. The state will review this proposal for approval.
Again, the testing and investigation at the airport do not impact the city drinking water system in any way. We are required to test our drinking water for PFAS every year, and have not detected the compounds thus far.
For more information about PFAS in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/pfasresponse. The submitted testing report is available on our website, battlecreekmi.gov. It details the extensive testing methods and results from Phase 1 at the airport.