Test finds lead in water near Wolverine dump

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

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s not just PFAS, a likely carcinogen, leading to fears around Wolverine Worldwide’s former House Street dump in Belmont. Some residents also worry about lead in their wells.

Two residents near the dump told Target 8 that their drinking wells tested positive for lead, one of them nearly five times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit of 15 parts per billion for lead.

They say it should lead to widespread testing.

Lead can be especially devastating to children, with high levels potentially leading to brain damage and damage to the central nervous system.

Jenny Carney, who has two kids and lives on Chandler Street NE, across US-131 from the old dump, said her water tested at 73 ppb.

“It was extremely high, almost five times what the EPA level should be,” she said.

Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across the street from the dump, said her water tested at 22 parts per billion for lead. Her well already has, by far, the highest level of PFAS in the immediate area around the dump.

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

“At least it’s something that the doctors know about,” Jenny Carney said of the lead findings. “On the other hand, it’s like how much more? How much more are we going to have to deal with?”

Carney’s well had already been found to have high levels of PFAS in a test conducted by Wolverine. She hasn’t let anyone drink her home’s tainted well water since September, even with a whole-house filter.

She paid for her own simple $26 water test through the county after learning lead was discovered in soil samples at the House Street dump, where Wolverine dumped tannery sludge until 1970. The results came back in two weeks.

Attorneys at the Varnum law firm, who have filed multiple suits against Wolverine and represent both Wynn-Stelt and Carney, said they’re aware of only two lead results over the limit. They said they’ve notified state and federal officials about the findings. They believe it should lead to widespread testing for heavy metals, including lead.

So does Carney.

“There should be more widespread as far as testings,” she said.

Just down the street, a recent test did not find detectable traces of lead in another PFAS-tainted well. Still, Lisa Ingraham, the homeowner there, said she still has concerns.

“I will not drink the water, even after the filters,” she said.

As for the Carneys, she and her son had their blood tested for PFAS on Wednesday. On Thursday, both of her kids will be tested for lead.

“So far, it’s not affected them,” she said. “They’re smart and they’re beautiful.”

Officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA said they were not aware of the recent testing.

The DEQ says it tested 35 wells in that area last summer for heavy metals, including lead, and found nothing that violated standards. It says it continues to work closely with the EPA.

Wolverine Worldwide provided Target 8 with a statement that said it was area of the testing and that it “does not believe the House Street site is the source of these or any other lead detections in the House Street area.”

>>PDF: Full Wolverine Worldwide statement

The Rockford-based shoemaker said its monitoring wells near the dump have not been found to have any lead and that “all of the soil samples from the House Street site are well below cleanup criteria for lead.” It added that tests last summer found lead in only seven of 36 homes tested, and none of those were above limits.

The EPA provided Target 8 with this statement Wednesday:

“The EPA was informed by a private law firm of these results. EPA confirmed with the private law firm that the residents in question had already been provided filtered and/or bottled drinking water to ensure that clean, safe drinking water was available to them. EPA continues to work with MDEQ and health agencies on a coordinated approach to the sites in and around Rockford that are contaminated with PFAS and hazardous constituents.”

 

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Editor’s note: The original posting of this story said that the lead level in Lisa Ingraham’s water was 3 parts per billion. The story has since been corrected.