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White Lake Residents Express Concerns About Water Contamination

During a meeting with Huron Valley Schools, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Oakland County Health, residents voiced concerns about water contamination caused by the school district.

For the past few months, the Huron Valley School District has been providing bottled water to residents in the neighborhoods southeast of the Lakeland High School campus whose wells have been contaminated by the district's waste water treatment facility off Bogie Lake Road.

The water has not been enough though, and many residents voiced their concerns Wednesday night at a meeting with school officials and those involved in the remediation process to fix the contamination.

Chuck Kleismit is one of the residents whose drinking water has been affected by a plume of contamination leaked from the waste water facility that's now being shut down.

At the meeting, Kleismit said he's angry with the district and frustrated by the lack of transparency -- an issue several residents also had a the meeting.

"There was a lot going on that made me suspicious," he said. "I didn't have a whole lot of information. It would have been better if you (the district) had an informational meeting like this earlier so we wouldn't be so reactive. It's hard not to think the worst."

Kleismit said he and his family have been drinking bottled water since they found out that their water and the water of their neighbors tested positive for elevated levels of iron, sodium and chloride.

Eric Chatterson with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said the DEQ first noticed an issue with tests of the waste water in late 2008, early 2009. In 2010 the DEQ tested some residential water supplies near the treatment area behind Lakewood Elementary and found elevated levels of sodium and chloride. As a result they ordered the school district to shut down the facility.

Earlier this year, the district hooked the three school campus up to the township's sewer lines. The waste water treatment facility is in the process of being decommissioned now.

Chatterson explained that the district and the consultants hired, AMEC, are now testing the areas south of the campus to try and pinpoint the size of the plume and narrow down how many homes are affected by the contamination.

"The good news is the plume can only get smaller now," Chatterson said. The DEQ is regulating the remediation of the site and the wells affected.

According to Chatterson, the plume will dissipate on it's own over decades. The elevated levels of sodium and chloride are not a health hazard unless you are on a low sodium diet, Chatterson said.

AMEC's Mark Sweatman said the company is in the beginning stages of forming a remediation plan. Once the size of the plume is determined and the homes affected known, the company and district will come up with a plan of action to remedy the contamination.

This means the affected homeowners could get new wells, drilled deeper where the plume does not reach. However, that won't be known until the initial stage is complete in four to six months.

The district said Wednesday it will hold another informational meeting in March and will have more concrete numbers and test results for homeowners then.

"The next time we meet I want you to put yourselves in our shoes and look at this like you were living in my house with kids trying to deal with this issue," Kleismit said. "You can understand why we are all worried, we need answers."

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