Neighbors near 12 Mile dump want water tests

Dump is among three former Wolverine Worldwide sites at center of cancer study

Algoma Township, Wolverine Worldwide, dump site
The site of an old Wolverine Worldwide dump site off 12 Mile Road in Algoma Township. (Oct. 5, 2017)

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Neighbors around a small, long-closed landfill north of Rockford, where a former truck driver said he once dumped Wolverine Worldwide sludge, say they want their well water tested for contaminants.

They want to know if the same likely carcinogen known as PFOS that contaminated drinking wells around Wolverine’s dump in Belmont could also be in their wells.

“If something was dumped there, I would certainly want to know that they would test further than ground soil. I would hope that they would go down and drill something down in to see what is down there,” said Bob Pell, who lives in the Serenity Shores subdivision north of 12 Mile Road.

Pell said he and other neighbors had no idea that decades ago there had been a dump across the street from their neighborhood, on the south side of 12 Mile west of Northland Drive NE.

The Serenity Shores neighborhood was developed in the early 2000s.

“We’re all concerned,” Pell said, which is why some neighbors are considering paying for their own tests. “But the test isn’t cheap for doing water. I don’t want to jump the gun and test for water if I don’t know what I’m testing for.”

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Grand Rapids District Supervisor David O’Donnell said his office is trying to confirm that Wolverine sludge was dumped along 12 Mile Road.

He said Wolverine told the DEQ it was aware of only two former dump sites — one in what is now Boulder Creek Golf Club along Cannonsburg Road NE and the other on House Street NE in Belmont. The Kent County Health Department is now conducting a cancer study centered around all three sites.

Map: The former Wolverine Worldwide dump sites at center of the Kent County Health Department’s largest ever cancer study.

>>Inside Target 8 investigation into toxic tap water

O’Donnell said groundwater from the 12 Mile dump likely flows toward the nearby Rogue River and away from homes, though he said the DEQ hasn’t performed hydrological tests to confirm that.

He said hydrological tests years ago at the Boulder Creek site showed the groundwater flowed toward the Grand River, also away from homes.

But residents along 12 Mile say that is not enough.

The old dump runs right along a bend in the Rogue, north of Rockford.

Bob Moore moved to a home across the street from the 12 Mile dump in 1962, when it  was still in operation.

“Everybody dumped over there, so there was all kinds of debris over there,” Moore said.

He remembers it was run by a man named Willie, who lived in a shack next to the dump and collected dumping fees.

“When I was a boy, I used to go over there all the time and he’d let me shoot rats over there, because there was all kinds of rats over there,” Moore said.

He remembers frequent fires to burn trash, the steady flow of trucks in and out and a smell similar to the Wolverine tannery in nearby Rockford. He said the dump closed by 1970.

Moore, whose son’s family now lives at his childhood home, said he also believes the DEQ should test well water.

“Oh, I definitely would be for that,” Moore said. “I think that would be an excellent idea.

A former truck driver who didn’t want to be identified told Target 8 he dumped loads of sludge from Wolverine’s tannery at the 12 Mile dump, though only half a dozen times in the year or so he hauled waste in the 1960s. He doesn’t know if drivers before him dumped there.

The driver said he dumped most of the sludge at Wolverine’s House Street dump in Belmont, where a likely carcinogen used in Scotchgard has contaminated wells, forcing residents to use bottled water and raising fears of cancer and other illnesses. Wolverine used Scotchgard for years on its shoes and boots.

plainfield township, wolverine worldwide, contaminated water
A well in Belmont that was contaminated, likely by chemicals from an old Wolverine Worldwide dump site. (Sept. 26, 2017)

>>Online: Health department on House Street disposal area

Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green, a former state representative, says he didn’t know about the 12 Mile dump until he heard it from Target 8. He said the township hasn’t found any records on the site, which is now owned by Kent County.

“We need to get on this right away,” Green said. “I believe the DEQ is getting on this, as well as the health department.”

Green said he is now working with the DEQ and the Kent County Health Department.

“A lot of this is new information to me as well, to all of us, so I will definitely be staying on top of the DEQ as well as the health department to get this area substantiated and tested,” Green said.

DEQ officials are asking residents to call their Grand Rapids office to report any other possible dump sites.

“The No. 1 goal here is to identify all potential sites,” Green said. “I couldn’t stress that enough. This is why it’s so important to talk to you (Target 8) and make sure our residents know they need to call right away, ideally to call the DEQ, but to let us know as well and get as many of these sites tested as soon as possible.”

The Grand Rapids DEQ office can be reached at 616.356.0500.