Wolverine: PFAS detected up and down Rogue River

What are believed to be leftovers from the now shuttered Wolverine Worldwide tannery rest alongside the Rogue River in Rockford. (Sept. 28, 2017)


ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Wolverine Worldwide said it found high levels of the former 3M Scotchgard chemical PFAS on its former tannery site and lower levels up and down the Rogue River.

In one monitoring well on the former tannery in Rockford, tests detected 490,000 parts per trillion of PFAS, a chemical now considered a likely carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency has set an advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion for drinking water. There are no drinking water wells in or near the tannery site.

“It creates a risk from that plume seeping into the Rogue River,” said Rick Rediske, an expert in environmental toxicology and chemistry with the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University. “That’s the highest level I’ve seen to date.”

The company also said it found PFAS in sediment at the bottom of Rum Creek and the Rogue River, with one sample up to 12,400 parts per trillion.

“There’s other organisms that live in the sediment, like mussels and there’s the small insects and those insects, those are what the fish eat. So the sediment concentration is one piece that’s important,” Rediske said.

Wolverine also reported PFAS in surface water at five spots north and south on the Rogue River.

The surface water levels ranged from 6.2 parts per trillion north of the tannery to 16.4 parts per trillion where the Rogue flows into the Grand River south of Rockford near West River Drive.

Rogue River surface water sampling map. (Courtesy Wolverine Worldwide)

A 2013 advisory from the state warned against eating certain types of fish from the Rogue after evidence of PFAS was found. Rediske said the new number may cause the state may consider expanding the advisory to other fish species.

“Fish can accumulate that material 1,000 times, so smaller levels can be very significant in fish,” he said.

In a news release from Wolverine, the company said the results show there’s no risk to the public because the Rogue River and Rum Creek are not sources for drinking water. An expert cited by Wolverine also said the results show no health risk to people having contact with the water.

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

“Swimming, kayaking, or other recreational contact with Rum Creek or the Rogue River does not present a health risk to individuals,” said Dr. Janet Anderson, a toxicologist and PFOA/PFOS expert at Integral Consulting. “These recreational activities, including any incidental consumption of water, would not increase anyone’s health risk.”

Wolverine had said it didn’t learn until recently that 3M used PFAS in Scotchgard it used to treat shoes. Target 8 revealed last week, however, that 3M notified Wolverine in 1999 about potential environmental and health hazards of PFAS. Three years later, 3M changed the Scotchgard formula.

PFAS is now considered a likely carcinogen and has been linked to other illnesses.

Wolverine also dumped sludge from the tannery at several sites, including House Street NE in Belmont, where tests have found high levels of PFAS in the wells of neighboring homes.

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released the following statement regarding the newly released report:

“The Michigan DEQ is extremely concerned about the high contaminate amounts depicted in this report which is why we are focused on ensuring that any potential health risk is mitigated and contamination is thoroughly investigated. We are currently reviewing the report submitted by Wolverine World Wide (WWW) to confirm the data and conclusions presented.

The department has requested WWW develop a work plan and schedule to fully define the vertical and horizontal extent of impacts to groundwater, soils, surface water and sediments by November 27, 2017. Additionally, we have requested that they provide us with a site model that includes cross sections that locate former buildings and industrial piping runs, iso-concentration maps for both ammonia and PFAS separately, data tables, and all other relevant information.

The DEQ is committed to ensuring that residents have a healthy and safe environment, which is why we are leaving no stone unturned in our investigations to determine the true extent of any potential contamination.”

On Nov. 29, representatives from the DEQ, Wolverine Worldwide, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Kent County Health Department will be on hand at the Rockford Freshman Center on Kroes Street to answer residents’ questions about the groundwater contamination. Starting at 4:30 p.m., officials will answer questions one-on-one. At 6 p.m., there will be a town hall meeting in the gym.

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: