Toxic tap water testing area near old Wolverine dump expanded

PFOS, Belmont
An old Wolverine Worldwide dump in Belmont is believed to have contaminated well water with a chemical called PFOS.


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — State officials have expanded the area of homes they’re testing for toxic tap water near a former Wolverine Worldwide dump site in northeast Kent County.

A Kent County Health Department map shows a much larger test site, from the House Street NE dump site southeast to the Rogue River. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the expanded area includes approximately 300 homes with wells. That’s in addition to the 338 Belmont area homes with wells included in the original testing and buffer zones.

MAP: PFOS testing and buffer areas around Wolverine Worldwide’s old House Street NE dump site.

A DEQ geologist said the area was expanded based on geological test results conducted to determine “the behavior” of the chemical PFOS, which was once used to waterproof shoes.

An official with Wolverine Worldwide told 24 Hour News 8 earlier Wednesday that Pixley Avenue in Belmont had been added to the testing area.

Brian Jones lives in the expanded testing zone. He told 24 Hour News 8 he knew it was only a matter of time before someone knocked on his door. That knock came Tuesday.

“The not knowing is the hard part,” Jones said.

“Even if they are going to foot the bill and stuff, it’s time and wondering if any of that is in my system,” he added.

Robin VanderJagt’s home along Maksimowski Avenue NE in Plainfield Township is within the expanded area. She’s relieved the MDEQ decided to test more wells.

“It gives me more peace of mind, yes, definitely. Because before it was, ‘What are we drinking? Has it reached out well?'” she said. “Well water is the only option for us and we’ve been drinking it unfiltered for 31 years — for me, anyway — so I’m very happy.”

She said she wanted to get her water privately tested earlier, but was quoted a whopping $1,300.

Wolverine Worldwide issued the following statement after the DEQ’s expanded testing map was released:

“Wolverine Worldwide continues to collaborate with local and state agencies and we are notifying homeowners on next steps. Samples will be collected swiftly and Wolverine is suppling (sic) bottled water to homes in the expansion area.

“We remain dedicated to transparency and proactively testing sites identified by the MDEQ so residents will have confidence in their water. To date, a limited number have been found to be over the EPA lifetime drinking water health advisory level, and precautionary tests for the Buffer Zone and Southeast Expansion Area will allow a more complete understanding of any possible impacted drinking water.”

The update comes two days after residents in Belmont discovered a third illegal dump site near Wolverine Worldwide’s former legal dump on House Street NE.

Tedd Ryfiak’s home is next to that site and within the original testing area. He said his well water has been tested three times and each time the level of PFOS has been higher than the last. He said the level was 1,140 parts per trillion when the first tests were conducted in August. In September, he got results showing the level was 2,020 parts per trillion. On Wednesday, he learned a third test conducted a few weeks ago found the level was 2,220 parts per trillion — more than 31 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory level for drinking.

“I think they’re chasing the plume still and they need to find out where it’s at and get in front it so that people down the road aren’t as affected,” Ryfiak said.

The two other illegal sites near House Street are on Michigan Department of Transportation property located on the south side of House Street and just west of that.

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

There are also two possible dump sites off Cannonsburg Road NE at Boulder Creek Golf Course, and 12 Mile Road NE just west of White Pine Trail.

>>News app users: Tap here for toxic tap water map

Another dump on Ramsdell Drive NE recently led East Rockford Middle School to stop using its well water. Wolverine Worldwide is providing bottled water to students pending the results of water tests. The DEQ is also testing the wells used by three other Rockford public schools for PFOS, which is no longer used by Scotchgard.

A former Kent County health official told Target 8 Tuesday that Belmont neighbors fearing contamination of their wells complained about Wolverine Worldwide’s House Street NE landfill nearly 60 years ago, but the company continued dumping sludge there. Now, the long-closed dump is the center of a plume of contamination that has spread a likely carcinogen into wells more than a mile away.

On Friday, Varnum Law filed a notice of intention to sue Wolverine Worldwide on behalf of Belmont area residents.

>>App users: Historic aerial photos of dump sites

RESOURCES FOR BELMONT RESIDENTS:

Wolverine Worldwide is providing whole-house water filtration systems to hundreds of residents in the testing and buffer zones surrounding the House Street NE dump site.

If you are eligible for a whole-house water filtration system from Wolverine Worldwide, you can call 616.866.5627 or email HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center can be reached at 1.800.662.9278.

Websites with additional information on the contamination: