Wolverine promised in 1960s to protect wells

Lawsuit settlement included agreement to prevent contamination in Plainfield Twp.

Plainfield Township, illegal dump site
A dump site off House Street NE in Plainfield Township. (September 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Recently uncovered documents show Wolverine Worldwide promised not to pollute Belmont water more than 50 years ago.

The information from the 1960s was dug up by Varnum Law Firm, a firm representing residents near Wolverine dump sites in Belmont and elsewhere north of Grandf Rapids.

“This is another piece of the puzzle that (shows) this isn’t the first time this came up and this isn’t the first time the residents found it offensive and it turns out it’s not the first time it’s in a legal proceeding or the subject of a court order,” Aaron Phelps, a partner Varnum Law Firm, said of the documents.

The information was found in old Plainfield Township board minutes and a court order.

Phelps pointed out that Wolverine has argued that dumping waste was normal for the 1960s.

“There has been a sentiment that has been expressed that, we (Wolverine World Wide) did the right thing, we’ve always done the right thing and to me this calls into questions whether that is accurate,” Phelps said.

According to the township board minutes, the board voted in July 1964 to stop Wolverine Worldwide from dumping along House Street after 130 residents signed a petition opposing the landfill.

But instead of stopping, Wolverine stalled and filed a lawsuit against the township, seeking to continue dumping. The suit was settled out of court. The agreement allowed Wolverine to continue dumping, but it came with conditions.

“One of which was to prevent any contamination to water supply,” Phelps said. “Obviously, we know that didn’t happen.”

The House Street site is now blamed with contaminating wells more than a mile away. The chemical causing the most concern is PFAS, a likely carcinogen that has also been linked to other illnesses.

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

The court order from more than 50 years ago doesn’t have an expiration date.

“It’s a matter of public record. People should have known about it before now,” Phelps said.

The documents also reveal that Wolverine was dumping illegally on House Street for at least a year before it received a landfall license.

24 Hour News 8 reached out to Wolverine Worldwide to learn if it was aware of the order. The company’s PR firm replied only that “Wolverine does not comment on ongoing or historical litigation.”

>>App users: Interactive map of toxic tap water

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: