Angry residents question landfill’s PFAS response

Toxic Tap Water

PIERSON, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 200 residents, some of them angry, packed the Pierson village hall Thursday night, worried about PFAS that has seeped from a landfill.

Some said the owners of the Central Sanitary Landfill knew Wolverine Worldwide had dumped there for decades and should have tested for PFAS months ago.

The state hosted the meeting after tests found high levels of the likely carcinogen in some monitoring wells along the Central Sanitary Landfill, about 25 miles north of Grand Rapids. The highest reading, 250 parts per trillion, is more than triple the state’s limit for drinking water.

On Friday, a consultant for landfill owner Republic Services will go door to door in a mile square area around the landfill, setting up testing for private wells and providing bottled water. There are 21 homes in the area.

Some residents questioned why the landfill wasn’t testing more homes, including those around nearby Big Whitefish Lake. They wondered why officials weren’t testing the well of a school a mile north of the landfill.

The state Department of Environmental Quality and landfill officials said they would widen the test zone if they find PFAS in the nearby wells.

“This isn’t a stopping point; this is a checking point,” DEQ geologist Kent Walters said.

Shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide, whose dumping decades ago led to PFAS contamination in the Rockford area, dumped at the Pierson landfill for decades, starting in 1987 after the closing of the North Kent Landfill near Rockford, according to Pierson landfill  officials. It was still dumping there in 2002 when 3M stopped using PFAS in the Scotchgard that Wolverine used to treat shoes.

Landfill officials said they are trying to determine how the PFAS would have leaked. Much of the landfill is double lined to protect the environment.

Residents also questioned why the landfill didn’t start testing for PFAS sooner.

“You knew when this happened in Rockford when it was exposed in August 2017,” said Debra Cummings, who lives in the area set for testing. “Why were these test wells not immediately looked at when you knew you were a (Wolverine Worldwide) dumping site? Everybody is concerned, should I get my water tested or shouldn’t I?”

The landfill says it tested its own monitoring wells in February and got positive PFAS results earlier this month.

“I would say there’s accountability for the landfill and I would say there’s accountability for the government monitoring agencies,” Cummings said after the meeting.

While Wolverine officials acknowledged dumping at the landfill, they said they weren’t alone and that others could have contributed to the contamination.

The DEQ said it plans to hold another meeting for residents

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