PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Six years after PFAS was discovered in wells around the old Wolverine Worldwide House Street dump, crews this week started showing up with heavy equipment to finally start capping the carcinogen.

Crews will cover the 27-acre site with three layers of “flexible membrane” topped by 2 feet of soil, according to Wolverine’s work plan approved by the state late last year.

But the PFAS will stay — at least what remains after years of running off into the environment and into wells.

Crews work to cap PFAS contamination at Wolverine Worldwide's old House Street dump in Plainfield Township. (Sept. 23, 2023.
Crews work to cap PFAS contamination at Wolverine Worldwide’s old House Street dump in Plainfield Township. (Sept. 23, 2023.

“We can’t clean it up; we can’t pull the PFAS out of there without taking it to somebody else,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across the street from the dump and has become an environmental advocate. “So instead, the state has decided that the best option is to cap it to prevent rainwater from filtering through, which will prevent the PFAS from hopefully moving any quicker towards the Grand River and Lake Michigan.”

Rockford-based Wolverine used PFAS-laced Scotchgard to waterproof shoes decades ago. It dumped the waste, also decades ago, in Plainfield and Algoma townships. The most prominent among those waste sites: Wolverine’s House Street dump.

The contamination in nearby wells was discovered in 2017.

The chemical linked to some cancers and other illnesses spread to hundreds of wells, forcing residents to hook up to new city water lines and leading to tens of millions of dollars in settlements.

“I was hoping that day would happen about five years ago,” Wynn-Stelt said of the work to cap the dump. “I mean, we had to do something with it. We knew the longer it sat there, the more contamination was going to spread.”

Wynn-Stelt’s well set a record for PFAS contamination, and so did her blood. Her husband died of cancer. She recently recovered from thyroid cancer. She’s frustrated that it has taken so long to address the source of the PFAS.

“Common sense tells you it shouldn’t take this long,” she said. “If you spill spaghetti on your carpet, you don’t wait, you don’t measure and you don’t test for depth and you don’t contract it out. You don’t wait six years. You clean it up.”

The work plan calls for the project to take 30 months. Wynn-Stelt said she was told it would wrap up in December 2025.

The plan shows that the flexible membranes can last 100 years or more.