PFAS fears: 40 line up for blood tests

Many suing Wolverine Worldwide, blaming health problems on contamination

A sign directing people where to get blood tests for PFAS. (Feb. 7, 2018)


ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — One after another, they filed into the American Legion hall in Rockford, hoping their blood tests might somehow lead to answers in Wolverine Worldwide’s growing PFAS crisis.

As many as 40 people who live in the PFAS zones in Plainfield and Algoma Townships lined up for blood tests Wednesday.

Some were frustrated that it wasn’t the county or state testing their blood. The lab was paid for by Varnum, the law firm suing Wolverine, and was set up in a conference room at American Legion Post 102 on Northland Drive NE.

Among those getting their blood tested was Ashlee Naffziger, who once lived in a PFAS zone in Algoma Township and blames Wolverine for the death of her son.

She was the 15th person tested on Wednesday, one every 10 or 15 minutes at the hall.

Naffziger’s lawsuit against Wolverine blames PFAS for the preeclampsia that led to the death of her 6-week-old son, Hunter, in 2015.

“It’ll kind of answer some questions, I think,” she said.

“I hope it gives us some answers to maybe Hunter. And if it’s in my blood, that would be more likely that it’s in his blood,” she added, pointing to her 9-month-old son, Grayson, in her arms.

Grayson is healthy, but she and her husband worry.

She also hopes the blood work will bolster their case against Wolverine — one of at least 79 filed so far. Three of them, including hers, allege Wolverine’s PFAS led to deaths. Others blame PFAS for cancers, miscarriages, immune system problems and more.

Naffziger hopes the blood tests “give Wolverine some kind of proof in the pudding that you did something wrong and this is the result of it.”

Her mom, Lisa Pruett, also got tested. She still lives in Algoma Township. Her lawsuit blames PFAS for a tumor that led doctors to remove 18 inches of her colon.

“When the first signs of the wells started coming out, my husband said we need to get our well tested, and I said, ‘We’re not even in an area, we’re not even close,’ and then it started creeping closer to Wolven (Avenue),” she said.

And it got into her well, which tested triple the state’s legal limit of 70 parts per trillion.

A blood test paid for by Varnum already found 5 million parts per trillion in the blood of Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across from Wolverine’s House Street dump, which is at the center of the toxic tap water crisis. Health officials have said it’s the highest level they’ve seen anywhere.

Wynn-Stelt has sued Wolverine, claiming it caused the death of her husband Joel, who had suffered liver cancer. She also alleges it caused her uterine fibroids requiring a hysterectomy, along with gout and thyroid problems.

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

Another blood test found 484,000 parts per trillion of PFAS in the blood of 20-month-old Jack McNaughton, who also lives near the dump.

Local and state health officials said blood tests aren’t necessary for patients; it’s enough, they said, for your doctor to know you’ve been drinking PFAS-tainted water.

That frustrates Curt Jackson, who lives three blocks from the House Street dump. His well first tested negative but now has traces of PFAS. He knows it builds up in your body and takes a long time to leave.

“I’d rather find out what’s going on than keep a blind eye to it,” he said.

Jim Penrod, who also lives near Wolverine’s old House Street dump and is suing the Rockford-based shoe manufacturer, got his blood tested. He said the state should test blood near all known PFAS sites across Michigan.

“How bad is the water throughout the state?” he wondered. “Are they in the same situations that we’re in?”

The blood samples are being rushed overnight to a lab in British Columbia, with results expected back in a month or more.

Wolverine said it continues to work with state, local and federal officials, but says it will defend itself against the lawsuits.

The state earlier told Target 8 it is considering blood tests in the area as part of a health survey, though they say they’re not needed for individual treatment.

RESOURCES FOR PLAINFIELD AND ALGOMA TOWNSHIP 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: