PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The number of potential Wolverine Worldwide dump sites under investigation by the state has nearly doubled, Target 8 has learned.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality now has a list of 57 possible sites under investigation, leading to more tests for a likely carcinogen and more worry for residents.
The sites include a pond at Rogue River Park in Belmont, not far from Wolverine’s old House Street NE dump that is at the center of the contamination.
“My first thought was I wonder if that’s what caused all the cancers in my family because our whole family has cancers,” said Joyce Jones, who grew up in the area and said she and her family swam in the pond years ago.
Her late father, who used to fish in the ponds, died of cancer. Her brother and mom both have cancer, she said. They not only swam in the ponds, she said, but live nearby and are waiting for test results on their own well.
The DEQ says Wolverine’s consultants have already tested wells in Rogue River Park, a county-run facility.
Residents told Target 8 they found barrels years ago in the pond, which is a former gravel pit.
“The barrels have been in there for years,” Jones said.
Target 8 spotted at least a half-dozen barrels still submerged. The county has said it believes the barrels could be from an old dock. But the DEQ said the barrels are suspicious, and said one resident told them of odors years ago similar to the former Wolverine tannery in Rockford.
Last week, the number of sites under investigation was 35, but the DEQ said residents continue to call them with tips on other possible dumps.
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While the DEQ is not releasing the locations of the 57 sites, it is focused on four townships around Rockford — Plainfield, where this all started, Cannon, Courtland and Algoma — all not far from the former Wolverine tannery.
The DEQ said many of the tips involve old barrels and that it’s unlikely all of them are linked to Wolverine.
The sites also include others already reported. Among them: 12 Mile Road at White Pine Trail in Algoma Township, where tests paid for by nearby residents found low levels of PFAS.
They also include land where farmers decades ago used Wolverine’s sludge as fertilizer. The DEQ says it is checking old farms on the north side of 10 Mile Road, east of US-131. Officials confirmed they also are investigating the Hardy farm at 10 Mile and Jewell Avenue NE.
“A truck with a bug bucket on the back dumped it,” retired farmer Donald Hardy said of waste brought to his property.
Hardy said he remembers Wolverine dumping six to eight truckloads on the land. The Hardys planned to use the sludge on their field once it rotted, but said it was slow to rot. They can still see evidence of the sludge, where they say trees won’t grow.
In this case, though, it would appear unlikely they’d find PFAS, the chemical in the Scotchgard Wolverine used to waterproof shoes. The farmer said it was dumped in the early 1950s. Wolverine didn’t start using Scotchgard until six years later.
But the Hardys still worry.
“I’m concerned about the water,” said Hardy’s wife Janice Hardy. “So many neighbors over the last 15 years have had cancer, and so it’s coming from somewhere. So we want our water tested and other neighbors do, too.”
The DEQ said it’s a tedious job trying to track down and confirm possible Wolverine dump sites. They said the sites likely were not illegal because it happened before laws were passed to regulate dumps.
As for the Hardys, they said they are still waiting for test results on their well.
Aerial photos: Rogue River Park, Hardy farm
Aerial photos: Rogue River Park, Hardy farm x
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RESOURCES FOR BELMONT RESIDENTS:
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: