‘Mayor of House Street’ wins national EPA award

Toxic Tap Water

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Sandy Wynn-Stelt became the face of the fight against PFAS in West Michigan and nationally.

That has led the Environmental Protection Agency to honor her with its national Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

The award recognizes a person or a community group working with the EPA to address hazardous waste problems.

“Awards like this show that citizens have the ability to work with government agencies to get things done,” Wynn-Stelt said Friday.

She has lived for more than 30 years across from Wolverine Worldwide’s old House Street dump in Belmont, where the company for decades buried PFAS, a likely carcinogen found in the Scotchgard that Wolverine used to treat its shoes.

It not only seeped into wells in the area and other parts of northern Kent County, but it got into Wynn-Stelt’s blood — 5 million parts per trillion, the highest known level ever.

Her husband died of cancer and she has thyroid problems.

She’s been to Washington, D.C., three times, testifying a year ago Friday before a Senate committee on PFAS.

“To me, this is a no-brainer,” she told News 8 Friday. “You should have clean water that you can trust to drink.”

She’s also testified in Lansing and has spoken out locally — a lot. Her neighbors dubbed her the “Mayor of House Street.”

“I just tend to show up at people’s door,” she said. “I just keep pushing at it. I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing at it, and I think it shows that you can make a change, but it also shows it was the whole community that pushed at this; it wasn’t just one person. It really was a whole team effort on this.”

Her lawsuit against Wolverine is still pending, as are many others.

The fight led to a separate $69.5 million settlement with Wolverine and the Scotchgard maker, 3M, which is being used to send city water to hard-hit areas, including House Street.

She expects to hook up to city water in a month.

She gives some of the credit to the shoemaker.

“I do think that Wolverine is part of this community and wanted to get this fixed,” she said.

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