EPA: Rockford Tannery cleanup reveals leather, chromium

Toxic Tap Water
chromium at rockford tannery site

Chromium turned this soil at the former site of the Rockford Tannery blue. (Courtesy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — As cleanup continues in and around the former site of Wolverine Worldwide’s Rockford Tannery, crews are finding buried contaminants and waste.

About five feet down along the Rogue River, cleanup crews found soil tinted blue by chromium used in the hide-tanning process, a presentation (PPT) by the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows. The EPA said that the blue dirt isn’t as bad as it looks because that type of chromium isn’t very dangerous to living things.

Crews also found a huge pile of leather and rubber scraps just north of the tannery site. The EPA says they are castoffs from shoe production.

leather and rubber rockford tannery
Leather and rubber debris found along the Rogue River near the former site of the Rockford Tannery. (Courtesy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

The feds also said a fence was being installed around Wolverine’s House Street dump, where tanning waste was dumped years ago. The House Street site is at the center of PFAS contamination in the Belmont area. Officials say the Scotchgard used to waterproof Wolverine shoes contained the chemical, a likely carcinogen also linked to other illnesses.

The EPA told Rockford-based Wolverine earlier this year that it must start cleaning up the old tannery site. The order didn’t cover PFAS contamination there, but it did cover other hazardous chemicals like chrome, mercury and arsenic. The shoemaker was told to get those heavy metals out of the topsoil and along the riverbank.

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