PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP — It’s been a year since a Rockford citizens group tipped off the state about possible PFAS contamination at Wolverine Worldwide’s old dump in Belmont.
An investigation that first focused on the dump on House Street NE now covers an area five miles long and five miles wide, according to a map released Friday by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
It spans from the Grand River in Plainfield Township north to nearly 11 Mile Road NE in Algoma Township, and from 10 Mile Road near Pine Island Drive NE east into the city of Rockford.
“Currently we don’t know where the end story is as far as where any contamination points could be,” DEQ spokeswoman Melanie Brown told Target 8 on Friday.
The Wolverine crisis has grown to cover more homes than any of the nearly 30 known PFAS sites in Michigan, the DEQ said.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation
It has raised fears of cancer and other illnesses, along with worries about lower property values.
So far in Kent County, wells at 78 homes have tested over the EPA advisory level for PFAS, a likely carcinogen.
Thirty of those are in the original House Street dump area, one with a level of 38,000 parts per trillion — 542 times the EPA’s limit of 70.
That is spreading from the old dump where Wolverine Worldwide buried PFAS-contaminated sludge until 1970. It comes from the Scotchard Wolverine used for decades to waterproof shoes.
The rest of the wells over the limit, 48, are in Algoma Township, north of 10 Mile, on either side of U.S. 131. One of those, according to the state, tested more than 20,000 parts per trillion.
The DEQ on Friday provided a breakdown of the tests in Algoma Township. Two homes tested between 10,000 and 21,000 parts per trillion; 10 homes were between 1,000 and 10,000; 30 were from 100 to 1,000 and six were from 70 to 100.
Tests have found PFAS at lower levels in more than 200 other wells in the area.
PFAS also is leaching into the Rogue River from Wolverine’s former tannery site in the city of Rockford. Tests found 490,000 parts per trillion of PFAS in a monitoring well at the tannery site.
“So far, the DEQ and Wolverine have tested over 1,000 homes in the north Kent County area,” Brown said. “We certainly are prepared to expand wherever the data takes us. We don’t know what that final number may be, but we certainly are prepared to have to expand out a little bit more than even where we are at this point.”
The DEQ is now working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control.
The contamination has led to a federal class action suit, along with 41 lawsuits in Kent County.
Wolverine has not responded to the lawsuits, but has said it’s doing everything it can to keep people safe, including installing filters.
Plainfield and Algoma townships are working on plans to extend municipal water to most of the impacted areas and have asked Wolverine to pay for it.
The Kent County Health Department on Friday announced that a planned PFAS health survey has been delayed so it can coordinate the study with federal officials. The health department said it had hoped to start sending out the surveys early this year to more than 1,000 homes.
It is now working with the Centers for Disease control to “ensure the survey is done correctly,” according to a health department statement.
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: