Lawsuits against Wolverine Worldwide mounting

Wolverine Worldwide, distribution center, Rockford
The Wolverine Worldwide distribution center in Rockford. (Oct. 19, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Eight lawsuits aimed at holding Wolverine Worldwide financially accountable for contaminated tap water in Northern Kent County is just the beginning of legal action against the company, according to a Grand Rapids law firm.

More lawsuits are expected, as Varnum Law is representing more than 130 people affected by the toxic tap water.

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

The lawsuits argue Wolverine broke the law by dumping their “hazardous tannery waste” for nearly 30 years in the mid-1900s because contaminating the groundwater in Michigan has been illegal since 1929.

They also argues the letter Wolverine received from 3M in 1999 and uncovered by Target 8 in November, shows negligence. The letter warned of the potential dangers of using Scotchgard.

 >>App users: Interactive map of toxic tap water

“(Residents are) extremely frustrated, and in some cases they feel helpless because they don’t get answers that they need,” Aaron Phelps said. “They don’t have information. They don’t feel enough information has been provided by the principle parties involved.”

Phelps is a partner at Varnum. He said they’re filing individual suits instead of a single class action because each household is dealing with different problems.

“When you do that, everyone gets generally the same relief. That’s difficult to do in a situation like this when people have individualized claims,” Phelps explained. “Some people are very sick, some aren’t sick at all. Some people live closer to the dump. Some have different levels of property damage, different levels of contamination in the groundwater that they use. So there’s just a variety of things that set people apart.”

A company representative told 24 Hour News 8 Wolverine does not comment on ongoing or potential litigation when asked for a response to the lawsuits.

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: