Wolverine to pay $1.69M for filters in contamination zone

Crews dig up illegal dump site on MDOT property across from House Street dump

House Street, illegal dump site
Crews tape off the area along House Street NE in Belmont where they were cleaning up an illegal dump site. (Oct. 12, 2017)


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Wolverine Worldwide will be providing whole house water filtration systems to hundreds of homes near Rockford that have been or are being tested for a toxic chemical found near a former company dump site.

The company announced Thursday it will cover the cost of water filter systems and customized installation for 338 Belmont-area homes being tested for PFOA and PFOS near Wolverine Worldwide’s old House Street NE dump. The chemical was used in Scotchgard, which Wolverine Worldwide used to waterproof shoes.

Every single one of the 338 homes in the study area established by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and an expanded precautionary buffer zone is eligible for a whole house water filtration system, according to Wolverine.

Test results on many of the homes in the study area and buffer zone are expected back in the coming weeks, according to Wolverine Worldwide. The company says all of the homes are eligible for the water filtration systems regardless of what tests find.

Wolverine Worldwide told 24 Hour News 8 each filtration system will cost the company approximately $5,000, bringing the total bill to about $1.6 million.

Wolverine Worldwide, House Street, buffer zone
Map: The buffer zone around a long-defunct Wolverine Worldwide dump believed to be causing well water contamination.

Wolverine Worldwide’s decision was welcomed by residents wary of their water.

“At this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever drink my water again without a whole house water filter, even if it has low levels,” said Laurie Chappell, who is waiting on test results.

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.

The company previously provided bottled water and kitchen water filters to 13 homes where tests for the toxic chemical came back above federal safety guidelines.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

HOMEOWNER: FILTRATION SYSTEM WORKS

Steve Martin, another resident in the area, went out to get his own water filtration system after his well was found to be contaminated.

“We needed some peace of mind. And for our family and for our neighbors, decided to be the test house,” he said.

The PFOS level at his home was previously found to be 797 parts per trillion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory level is 70 parts per trillion. After about two weeks using a filtration system from Gordon Water Systems, there is no trace of PFOS in Martin’s water.

“We aren’t seeing any, any contamination in our system at all,” he said. “Shower, everything is treated.”

He said he and his family now feel “absolutely” safe drinking and bathing in their water.

It’s not yet clear what brand and model of filtration system Wolverine will purchase. 24 Hour News 8 put in a request for that information, but had not heard back as of Thursday evening.

LEATHER FOUND AT ILLEGAL DUMP

Also Thursday, crews worked all morning to clean up a separate, illegal dump site on House Street. Two dumpsters were filled with old barrels and leather scraps.

The site is on Michigan Department of Transportation land across the street from where Wolverine Worldwide was legally dumping.

Last month, Target 8 found barrels on the property and had them tested at a local lab. The results showed high levels of chromium. A Grand Valley State University professor told Target 8 that’s used in tanneries.

The DEQ, which is overseeing the cleanup, said it could take up to seven days to complete. Crews won’t stop until the land is back to its natural state.

It’s still unclear if Wolverine Worldwide could be fined for the illegal dump.

TESTING FOR TOXIC TAP WATER

Word about the home filtration systems came a day after Target 8 learned PFOS was found in groundwater nearly 1.5 miles away from the legal House Street dump site, where Wolverine Worldwide disposed of sludge from its Rockford tannery until about 1970.

Professor Richard Rediske, of GVSU’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute, said the new findings show the plume of contamination is major and that Wolverine Worldwide should expand the testing area. The footwear company stated Wednesday it was talking with the DEQ about whether to expand the testing area, but that decision had not yet been made.

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.

Wolverine Worldwide says it will be launching an information portal on its corporate website Friday where the community can find updates on the House Street situation, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. Homeowners eligible for whole house filter systems can contact Wolverine Worldwide at 616.866.5627 or at HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

State Reps. Chris Afendoulis and Rob VerHeulen (Republicans from Grand Rapids Township and Walker, respectively) released this statement on the contamination Thursday:

“Our first priority and concern through this process lies in the health and safety of our residents, particularly those who live near the former House Street Disposal. It is important that accurate information is being relayed to residents as quickly and effectively as possible.

“Our offices have been in regular communication with the Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services, Environmental Quality, Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Rural Development as they work with the Kent County Health Department, Plainfield Township, and Wolverine Worldwide. All of these organizations are working together to assist residents with short-term questions and concerns as we work toward a long-term solution.

“Both Kent County and Plainfield Township have developed websites with useful information for residents. DEQ continues to oversee testing in the area and Wolverine Worldwide is providing water filters to those in need.”

The representatives noted Kent County and Plainfield Township both have web pages set up about the situation. Residents can also call Afendoulis at 517.373.0218 or VerHeulen at 517.373.8900 if they have more questions.