ALGOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For those living in the areas in northern Kent County impacted by PFAS contamination, recent property assessment increases that translate to higher taxes seem like a cruel hoax.
The Algoma and Plainfield township neighborhoods around Rockford were once among the most desirable ZIP codes in Kent County, now those residents worry that their property is unsaleable and they want those who decide of tax rates to understand that.
At the Plainfield Township Board meeting Monday, residents made their concerns known.
“Why’d my assessment go up?” resident Dave Bisbee wondered. “My property’s a toxic trash dump now.”
Also at the meeting was Gregg Young, who lives in the 3300 block of House Street NE. That’s the street where, decades ago, Rockford-based shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide dumped the waste blamed as the source of the PFAS contamination in residential wells. PFAS is a likely carcinogen that has also been linked to several other illnesses.
“It remains that the name ‘House Street’ is now synonymous with (large New York pollution site) Love Canal and that this means the mere mention of our street will likely repulse potential buyers,” Young told the township board.
Young and Sue Poll built their beautiful home on House Street more than 30 years ago and raised their family there. They love their home, but feel like prisoners in a gilded cage. The increase in their assessment, which they got recently as tax season is in full swing, felt like adding insult to injury.
Young took his case to the township Zoning Board of Appeals, which is hearing complaints through Wednesday, to see what could be done.
“It seems as though they’re set in stone when you go there,” Young said.
Township assessor Jeff Miller said the board is sympathetic to homeowners’ plight and some members have PFAS on their own property, but the assessments are based on a two-year study that ended a year ago — before the PFAS crisis was exposed.
Asked if PFAS numbers impact the assessment, Miller said: “It really doesn’t at this time because I am tied to the sales study and the information that has been presented to me at this point.”
Assessors sampled property evaluations from more than 70 neighborhoods in Plainfield Township to work out the assessments. Miller said it would likely be another year before the township has numbers to see if PFAS has any affect.
“How large will that adjustment need to be, if there is any? The market needs to tell us that,” Miller said. “If you think of a train, we’re the caboose. Train goes up and down hills, we’re just the caboose at the end trying to reflect what’s going on there.”
“The information’s not available. If the information’s not available, it’s hard to put a number on something we don’t know what it is yet,” he continued.
Young said what he is mostly concerned about is seeing municipal water brought to his home to help allay fears of what is in the wells (the townships are suing Wolverine to make it foot the bill for extending municipal water), but he said he appreciated the township listening.
“They made no commitment as far as lowering my taxes but, no, I thought it was a good discussion and I’m very interested to see what they come back with,” Young said.
RESOURCES FOR PLAINFIELD AND ALGOMA TOWNSHIP RESIDENTS:
If you are eligible for a whole-house water filtration system from Wolverine Worldwide, you can call 616.866.5627 or email HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center can be reached at 1.800.662.9278.
Websites with additional information on the contamination:
- Algoma Township
- Plainfield Township
- Kent County Health Department
- Water testing interactive map
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
- Michigan PFAS Action Response Team
- Varnum PFAS Contamination updates Facebook group
- Wolverine Worldwide