Kent Co. asks state to request federal help in PFAS contamination

Imperial Pine Street, Belmont, Wolverine Worldwide, cleanup
Crews work to clean up Wolverine Worldwide waste at a dump site along Imperial Pine Street off House Street NE in Belmont. (Nov. 13, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County Health Department officials have reached out to Gov. Rick Snyder with a letter in attempt to receive assistance with the PFAS contamination.

The health department said it can’t handle the PFAS contamination on its own and wants federal involvement. The letter told Snyder if he doesn’t ask for aid, the health department would.

In addition to Snyder, the two-page letter was also sent to lawmakers, local public officials and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team recently created to solve the problem.

The problem stems from Wolverine Worldwide’s use of Scotchgard, which contained likely carcinogen PFAS, to treat shoes in the late 1950s. Wolverine dumped sludge from its landfill on House Street in Belmont, where contamination has spread into drinking wells more than two miles away.

Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Adam London wrote the letter, beginning with thanking Snyder for establishing the response team. It also listed four concerns with the way the situation is being handled and possible solutions.

>>Inside Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

A lack of communication between the organizations involved is at the top of the list. The agencies involved have the “best intentions,” but London blames poor managing from stated agencies, saying “in some instances poor messaging from state agencies has complicated an already complex situation.”

Next on the list is the state not activating federal resources, saying the PFAS contamination is still “somewhat novel to us in Michigan” and federal agencies have greater knowledge and resources.

At a Tuesday event in Grand Rapids, Snyder said federal resources are already involved.

“We’re in dialogue with federal officials in multiple departments on the whole PFAS issue across Michigan because it’s a national issue. So we are going to continue that dialog,” said Snyder.

When asked follow-up questions, the governor was escorted away by staff.

The health department is also worried that Michigan PFAS Action Response Team doesn’t have local representation. London said MPART is insufficient without representation, writing, “local agencies have been on the front-line for this”.

Finally, the department is concerned about the workload, saying local health departments are not built for this sort of continued commitment.

It’s still unknown if the Snyder responded to the letter.

>>PDF: Full letter to Snyder

>>App users: Interactive map of toxic tap water


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

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

Websites with additional information on the contamination: