Tainted well found farther from old dump site

Wolverine Worldwide and DEQ consider expanding testing for toxic tap water

Plainfield Township, House Street NE, illegal dump site
Crews prepare to clean up an illegal dump site along House Street NE in Plainfield Township. (Oct. 11, 2017)


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The likely carcinogen from a long-closed Wolverine Worldwide dump north of Grand Rapids has spread in groundwater nearly 1.5 miles away, Target 8 has learned.

A test of well water at a home at 7019 Herrington Ave. NE in Plainfield Township showed that PFOS — a toxic chemical in Scotchgard, which Wolverine previously used to waterproof shoes — at 35 parts per trillion, the homeowner told Target 8 on Wednesday.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials said the results prompted them to ask Wolverine Worldwide to expand its testing area.

“We need to be thinking what the next steps are now,” DEQ Grand Rapids Supervisor David O’Donnell told Target 8 Wednesday.

Professor Richard Rediske, of Grand Valley State University’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute, said the new findings show the plume of contamination is major and that Wolverine should expand the testing area.

Homeowner Linda Peterson said the DEQ informed her of the test results on Sunday. Her home on Herrington, near Belmont Avenue NE, is 1.3 miles as the crow flies from Wolverine’s old House Street NE dump. Wolverine dumped sludge there from its Rockford tannery until about 1970.

Wolverine Worldwide, Belmont, House Street, water contamination
Map: Sites in Belmont where wells have tested positive for PFOS contamination and their relation to a former Wolverine Worldwide dump.

Peterson lives on the outer edge of a “buffer zone” set up for testing by Wolverine.

“It spread a lot farther than they originally had anticipated, or they would have tested the whole area sooner,” Peterson told Target 8.

Peterson said she thought she was safe because she lives on a hill. While her reading of 35 parts per trillion is below the Environmental Protection Agency’s 70 parts per trillion advisory level, she says it’s far too high for her and her family. Some states, including New Jersey, Minnesota and West Virginia, have set far lower limits.

“I feel like I’ve been drinking this water for over 30 years; my children and my grandchildren have all been drinking it, and it’s a big problem,” Peterson said. “We shouldn’t have to keep drinking it just because it’s at a certain level.”

Peterson said the DEQ has told her to stop drinking her water straight from the well.

“I should not use the water for anything, not washing your food, or brushing your teeth or the ice, or cooking, or anything,” she said.

On Tuesday, a Wolverine consultant installed a filter for drinking, she said.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Target 8 investigation into toxic tap water

Until now, it appeared the PFOS contamination had spread half a mile across US-131 to Chandler Street NE, where four homes recently tested above the EPA advisory level for drinking water. Earlier tests found high levels of PFOS in wells near the House Street dump — one at 38,000 parts per trillion, 542 times the EPA limit.

PFOS has been linked to certain cancers, as well as pregnancy complications and childhood development problems, among other things. The Kent County Health Department is conducting its largest ever cancer cluster study around the House Street site and two other possible Wolverine dumps in the Rockford area.

It appears the contamination from the House Street dump is spreading to where the Rogue River flows into the Grand River.

“I think Wolverine should take care of it, personally, and Plainfield Township, maybe,” Peterson said. “A different water source would be good.”

Wolverine has agreed to install whole-house filtration systems in homes over the EPA limit, but Peterson wouldn’t qualify. She still believes Wolverine should install one for her.

“I have no idea what it would cost, but they did it,” she said.

After learning about her test results, Peterson immediately warned her neighbors. Connie Galline lives next door to Peterson, right outside the testing zone.

“I would like for it to be expanded, not just for us,” Galline said.

Galline said she called the DEQ a month ago but was told they were focused on testing close to the dump.

“He said, ‘We really don’t feel like you need to worry at all, but as the results keep coming in, we’ll take it from there,'” she said.

She said her family went back to drinking their well water after that. Now, she said, the time has come. She’s switched to bottled water at her own expense.

“We’d like to be tested to know how much of that chemical is in our well water,” Galline said.

In a Wednesday afternoon statement to Target 8, Wolverine Worldwide said it talking with the DEQ about whether the testing area should be expanded, but that a decision had not yet been made:

“Wolverine is in discussions with the MDEQ about a possible expansion of the testing area. While nothing has been finalized at this hour, we continue to work with them to identify best next steps based on the latest data. We remain committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensuring area residents have water they can trust.”