Wolverine Worldwide dumping raises fish safety concerns

What are believed to be leftovers from the now shuttered Wolverine Worldwide tannery rest alongside the Rogue River in Rockford. (Sept. 28, 2017)


ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Wolverine Worldwide’s past dumping along the Rogue River in Rockford is raising concerns about the health of the fish that live there.

Thursday, Target 8 found a mound of leather scraps along the riverbank, not far from where the company’s tannery once stood.

Residents say it’s a common sight.

“I don’t like it. It’s something that was wrong. It should have been taken care of,” said Bill Crandall, who was fishing at the Rockford Dam Thursday.

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Crandall says he’s been fishing in the Rogue River for the past 40 years, but right now he’s not eating his catch.

“I just catch and release,” he added.

Crandall says a friend tried to eat one recently.

“When he peeled the skin back to eat the fish, it was brown,” Candall recounted.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory to not eat sucker fish from the Rogue River after testing in 2013 revealed PFOS in the fish. It’s the same toxic chemical compound used to waterproof Wolverine Worldwide shoes.

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The direct link has not been made, but Crandall is convinced Wolverine Worldwide is responsible. He worked at the company’s tannery before it closed in 2010.

“I (used to) paste hides onto sheets and then they’d go into a heating room (where) you would dry them off,” recalled Crandall.

He says they were dumping back then, and everyone should be concerned that the treated material is still on the banks of the river.

“It’s going to be hard to change it If they do do something, and it’s going to take a long time,” Crandall said about the cleanup.

Wolverine Worldwide did not return Target 8’s request for a comment Thursday. The company did tell the Grand Rapids Press that it would clear up the scraps sometime this fall.

The MDHHS says the Rogue River was not tested until 2013 because of cost. A grant that year allowed testing to begin.