GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A federal judge has OK’d the settlement between Wolverine Worldwide and the Kent County townships where PFAS was found in residential wells.
The deal was announced in December, but it still needed the court’s approval. U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff issued that approval Wednesday.
According to court documents released by the state, Neff granted settlement “without reservation,” calling it “a model resolution of a very complex problem that reflects the cooperative spirit … in light of very serious public health consequences.” She praised all sides for the quick and collaborative resolution.
The $69.5 million agreement will pay to extend the municipal water system to about 1,000 properties in Plainfield and Algoma townships where PFAS contamination has been found in the drinking water. In a Wednesday statement, Michigan Attorney General said the judge’s approval will allow construction to start this spring.
Municipal water, however, will not be attached to every affected home. Under the settlement, Wolverine will still have to maintain whole-house filters for the houses outside the expansion area.
The deal also requires the Rockford-based shoe manufacturer to continue remediation both at its former tannery site and the House Street dump at the center of the well contamination, and to keep an eye on groundwater quality.
In a Wednesday statement, Wolverine said it was “pleased” by the approval, adding that it is committed “to being part of comprehensive water quality solutions for the community.”
“The Consent Decree provides the right framework for that to occur,” the statement reads in part.
Last week in Rockford, at a public meeting with Attorney General Dana Nessel to discuss the agreement, many affected residents said they were satisfied with it, though some said it did not go far enough.
“I know it’s not all things to everyone, and I wish it were, but I think it’s at least bringing some clean water to my neighbors, and that is first and foremost what I want,” Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across from the House Street dump and whose blood was found to have high levels of PFAS, told News 8 last week.
The PFAS class of chemicals is a likely carcinogen also linked to several other illnesses including but not limited to thyroid and liver problems, ulcerative colitis and fertility issues. The chemicals build up in the body and take a long time to leave.
It has been found in a number of products, including food wrappers, firefighting foam, Teflon and, blamed as the source of the contamination in Kent County, the 3M-made Scotchgard that Wolverine used to waterproof shoes.