Toxic water probe: DEQ to test 3 more Rockford schools

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — The superintendent of Rockford Public Schools says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has agreed to test the wells of three more schools, after a former Wolverine Worldwide dump site nearby was brought to state officials’ attention.

Superintendent Michael Shibler told 24 Hour News 8 Friday afternoon that the DEQ planned to test the water next week at three elementary schools: Crestwood, Cannonsburg and Lakes.

Map shows the Rockford schools being tested for PFOS.

“I, too, am concerned not only about what we know, but what we may not know,” Shibler said in a Friday letter to parents.

Shibler said the district’s remaining nine schools rely on municipal water through Plainfield Township and Rockford, which both conduct regular testing of their water supplies.

The request comes one day after Shibler announced the water fountains at East Rockford Middle School would be disabled as a precaution after the former dump site near Ramsdell Drive NE beween 9 Mile and 10 Mile roads was recently identified.

>>Inside Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

Wolverine Worldwide is distributing bottled water for drinking and cooking at East Rockford Middle School pending the outcome of water tests, which is expected in about two weeks.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said there is no evidence of contamination, but the school’s drinking water wells and eight homes in the area of the former Ramsdell Drive NE area dump site are being tested as a precaution.

The property is a former gravel pit. The previous homeowner told current resident Janet Giersch he had given a company working for Wolverine Worldwide permission to dump old hides there more than 40 years ago.

On Thursday, Wolverine Worldwide pledged to provide whole home water filters to 338 Belmont area homes in the testing and buffer zones surrounding the company’s old dump site on House Street NE.

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

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. The chemical was used in Scotchgard, which Wolverine Worldwide used to waterproof shoes.

Map shows the Wolverine Worldwide dumpsites located in Kent County.

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.

In a Friday newsletter, the Kent County Health Department said the DEQ’s Grand Rapids district office has been given the green light to spend $100,000 to investigate Wolverine Worldwide dump sites in northern Kent County. The agency also said crews would be flagging utilities along Pine Island Drive, House Street, Harrington Avenue and Chandler Drive in the coming weeks to prepare to gather soil samples.

The company said 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

Belmont area residents can also contact the DEQ Environmental Assistance Center online or at 1.800.662.9278.