GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five years after the carcinogen PFAS was discovered in wells in northern Kent County, a federal judge has tentatively approved a $54 million settlement against the companies responsible.
The settlement would be spread among about 1,700 property owners in what has become known as the North Kent County Study Area, which covers an area from West River Drive NE and the Grand River north through Belmont to 11 Mile Road NE, and east toward Rockford.
“They’ve gone through a lot,” plaintiffs’ attorney Esther Berezofsky said. “They’ve been through a lot and I think this is an excellent result and some closure.”
The federal class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 targeted Minnesota-based 3M, the maker of Scotchgard, and Wolverine Worldwide, which used PFAS-laced Scotchgard to treat its shoes. The Rockford shoemaker dumped PFAS sludge in the House Street dump in Belmont and in other nearby sites decades ago.
PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they last a long time in the environment.
“The settlement is fair, reasonable, adequate and meets the standards for preliminary approval,” U.S. District Judge Hala Jarbou said last week.
Wolverine said it and 3M “are pleased to have settled this lawsuit, and believe this settlement represents another important step towards resolving this matter and doing the right thing for our community.”
The contamination also led to a separate $69.5 million settlement with Wolverine and 3M, money used to send city water to hard-hit areas, including House Street.
The settlement doesn’t cover the more than 200 property owners who filed separate lawsuits against Wolverine and 3M in Kent County Circuit Court. Those were settled for undisclosed amounts.
The attorney for the plaintiffs said the latest settlement, which got preliminary approval from a federal judge Monday, covers property damage for those with contaminated wells who have owned property in the area since November first 2017. She said they’ll get notified about the settlement and how they can file a claim.
“It is not where everybody gets the same amount,” she said. “It’s divided based on certain criteria. There’s a pretty big range of recoveries depending on the circumstances, and again it’s based on the levels of PFAS, whether they’re transitioning or have transitioned to municipal water, whether they have to remain on filtration tanks, how long they’ve had the property, how many people have been inconvenienced.”
The federal judge has set a hearing to consider final approval of the settlement in March.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.