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Grayling water main seeks to replace PFAS-contaminated wells

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Grayling Charter Township is hoping to construct a line that would bring municipal water to neighborhoods with PFAS-contaminated wells.

The proposed main hasn't been fully designed yet, but the system aims to transport water north from Kirtland Community College — to approximately 500 residences around Grayling.

The initial main would target Clough subdivision, Sherwood Forest and Evergreen Drive, which have been impacted by PFAS plumes from the Grayling Army Airfield and the Camp Grayling cantonment area.

Township supervisor Lacey Stephan III said the goal is to have municipal water flowing in by early 2025 after the design is completed next year.

Connecting to the main will be optional, Stephan said, but it's likely a "healthy majority" would be necessary to move the project forward.

"This is the only guaranteed permanent solution for clean drinking water, and it's also the least expensive alternative for access to clean drinking water," Stephan said at the Dec. 4 Grayling Restoration Advisory Board meeting.

The township will be receiving a $25.6 million grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) in January. The grant will cover a portion of the project, including residential costs to hook up to the system.

"Residents will have a water bill [around $30 a month], but there will be no charge to hook up," Stephan said. "If they don't hook up while it's [offered] and decide a year later they want to, there will be a tap fee because that money will be gone."

Stephan said participating residents will be required to decommission their wells, which would also be covered by the state grant.

Nearly $100,000 has already gone toward funding feasibility studies, and the total project is estimated to cost around $75 million, which accounts for future service districts.

"The system will be completely debt-free," Stephan said. "There will be no extra money needed from the water bills to pay for debt of any kind. It'll just be operational costs."

Jonathan Edgerly, an environmental manager with the Michigan National Guard, said the National Guard Bureau (NGB) is working with the township to secure additional funds that can expand the main's coverage.

"Everybody's kind of running parallel tasks currently to get this to end-state as quickly as possible," Edgerly said.

"Our hopes are [the NGB's independent] engineering analysis will determine the extension of a municipal supply is the most viable option," Edgerly said. "If that is the case, then the DoD (Department of Defense) would be able to get into a cooperative agreement with the township to help fund the effort to provide that municipal water to affected communities."

Stephan said it remains to be seen if the DoD will actually contribute, but the township and state aren't holding out for DoD funding.

"The federal government is so big, they can't get out of their own way," he said. "If they pitch in, great — if they don't, I'm doing everything I can to make this happen. I'm not waiting anymore, and neither is EGLE."

The water main will be designed in a way to allow for future expansion outside of the "Initial Service District." See a preliminary map of the project below.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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