LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) – Gov. Rick Snyder has asked Michigan’s attorney general to take legal action against 3M, the manufacturer of Scotchgard and two firefighting foams that have been found to contribute to the presence of PFAS in the water supply.
In a release, Snyder said the state has made “extensive progress” in identifying PFAS-contaminated sites and is working to raise awareness to the threat and get rid of the products causing contamination.
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“Because of the scale and the scope of this problem and the associated expenses, it is necessary to pursue legal action against those who continued to produce and market these products, even once they were identified as the cause of this environmental contaminant,” he said in the release.
Michigan agencies are still testing the water supply across the state for the presence of PFAS, and are calling it an “ongoing public health threat.”
PFAs has been found in 31 sites across Michigan.
It's polluted rivers and a lake with PFAS-laced foam, led to fish advisories, and has contaminated wells.
The worst is in Kent County, near Belmont and Rockford, where Wolverine Worldwide dumped PFAS-tainted tannery sludge that has contaminated more than 760 wells.
But it was 3M that used PFAS to make the Scotchgard that tainted the sludge.
3M also used it in the AFFF firefighting foam used at airports, including the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
3M stopped using PFAS in 2002 in response to growing health concerns.
If the Michigan attorney general takes legal action, it would likely lead to a long, drawn-out court battle against a company that is already preparing for a fight.
"3M cares deeply about the safety and health of Michigan's communities," the company wrote in an email to Target 8. "3M acted responsibly at all times in connection with products containing PFOS, PFOA and AFFF and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship."
Wolverine Worldwide Inc. also emailed a statement to Target 8:
"Wolverine Worldwide welcomes the request issued by Gov. Rick Snyder today for legal action against 3M. 3M created, made, marketed, and sold Scotchgard to millions of consumers and thousands of businesses for decades, and Wolverine continues to believe that 3M should acknowledge its responsibilities and be involved in solutions," Wolverine said in the statement.
Aaron Phelps, the attorney for the 140-plus families suing Wolverine, said he also welcomed Snyder's pursuit of 3M.
"It's going to be a very costly and expensive effort" to clean up PFAS sites, he said. "It makes sense to me to have 3M involved in that."
The local lawsuits had named only Wolverine as a defendant, but a judge recently agreed with the shoemaker that 3M should be involved. Phelps said he plans to add 3M as a defendant.
Any court battle between the state and 3M would be closely watched by those who live near Wolverine Worldwide's old House Street dump in Belmont.
They include Lisa Ingraham, who still won't drink her well water, even though filters installed by Wolverine have cleaned out any traces of PFAS. Her well tested at more than 10,000 parts per trillion before the filters -- 147 times higher than the EPA standard for safe drinking.
That's not surprising considering she lives across US-131 from the old House Street dump, where Wolverine dumped PFAS-laced sludge decades ago.
She still drinks from a cooler in the kitchen, to "be rather safe than sorry," she said.
She mostly blames Wolverine for spreading the mess, and has filed one of more than 140 lawsuits against the shoemaker.
But she can also see why the state should go after 3M for producing the PFAS that reached her well.
3M recently spent $850 million to settle a lawsuit filed by its home-state of Minnesota over its dumping of PFAS there.
"With what we've gone through with not being able to drink our water, having the filters installed, just the anxiety over everything," she said. "I don't want to have to put anybody through that."
The state of Michigan has already sued Wolverine in federal court over its dumping.
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