Van Etten Lake is immediately downgradient of the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base (WAFB). Because of the frequent use of PFAS, on and off base, over nearly three decades, soil and groundwater became contaminated. The contaminated groundwater migrated off-site to Van Etten Lake, Van Etten Creek, Clark’s Marsh, and the Au Sable River.
Seasonal, permanent homes surround Van Etten Lake, and it is a busy spot for swimming, boating, fishing, and other activities. Activity in water and specific wind conditions caused PFAS foam to accumulate along the shoreline. This foam contains a highly elevated concentration of PFAS. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has identified this as a potential exposure risk.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) contacted DLZ to develop a method of eliminating foam when it accumulates on the shore. As a result, DLZ staff worked out a few possible ways of PFAS foam abatement. The best option was collecting foam with a wet/dry vacuum and a small generator to power it. However, receiving prompt notification of foam accumulation and mobilizing quickly to the site was unworkable. Also, transporting the collected foam in the required manner was not feasible for the local “foam collectors.” MDEQ and DLZ decided that the plan was not workable and scrapped the idea of foam collection. Instead, DLZ posted warning signs to inform the public not to make contact with the foam and to rinse off immediately if any contact is made. Also, DLZ installed a wash-station on the Van Etten Lake to allow swimmers to rinse off after exiting the water.