Law firms meet with Belmont residents over toxic tap water

Plainfield Township, illegal dump site
An illegal dump site off House Street NE in Plainfield Township. (September 2017)


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Law firms met with Belmont residents Sunday to answer questions about their legal options after many wells in the area were found to be contaminated with a likely carcinogen.

Firms held two town hall style meetings Sunday: Varnum Law at the Stegenga Chapel and Community Center in Belmont and Miller Law, a law firm based out of the Detroit-area, at Plainfield Christian Church in Comstock Park.

“We don’t know the extent of contamination at our area yet. Testing has been done, but results haven’t come back yet,” said Jim Warren, whose home is within the “buffer zone” around the former Wolverine Worldwide dump on House Street NE that’s blamed for contaminating water in wells as far as 1.3 miles away.

“You feel a little betrayed, you know?” Warren said. “You live in this area for so many years and then all of a sudden you’re told your water’s contaminated.”

On behalf of area residents, Varnum Law attorney Aaron Phelps already filed a notice of intention to sue Friday with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, saying Wolverine Worldwide “turned a blind eye to the House Street dump” and hasn’t taken enough action to fix the problem.

“We had an informational meeting and representing 40 to 50 people in the area and we’ve heard from many more that wanted information. They were frustrated they weren’t getting answers to their questions to Wolverine,” Phelps told 24 Hour News 8 at the town hall meeting in Belmont.

He gave residents information about how to join the class-action lawsuit his firm intends to file.

He added that he expects more dump sites will be found.

“We’re doing an investigation, we’re trying to find out — like everybody else is — the scope of this, what Wolverine knew, why this wasn’t made public earlier. And we hope to have more answers to that in the coming weeks,” he said.

Belmont residents who spoke with 24 Hour News 8 at the meeting were concerned about their water and said they want justice.

“Time to step up and take responsibility for it,” Kristie Keyes, whose home is near the dump site, said.

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’s advisory limit. The chemical was used in Scotchgard, which Wolverine Worldwide used to waterproof shoes.

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

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.

Map shows the Wolverine Worldwide dumpsites located in Kent County.

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.

Wolverine 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 HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

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

–24 Hour News 8 photojournalist Zach Horner contributed to this report.