‘Not all things,’ but PFAS settlement good enough for many

Toxic Tap Water

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — While many residents in northern Kent County on Monday praised the proposed $69.5 million PFAS settlement with Wolverine Worldwide, others at a public hearing complained it doesn’t go far enough.

Dozens of residents turned out for a public comments hearing at Rockford High School held by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The attorney general asked the public to weigh in as she considers the proposed settlement, which would send public water to about 1,000 homes with wells tainted by the likely carcinogen in Plainfield and Algoma townships.

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A sign at the former Wolverine Worldwide dump on House Street in Plainfield Township. (2017 file)

“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,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across from Wolverine’s former House Street dump at the center of the contamination.

Others with tainted wells questioned why municipal water wouldn’t reach them.

“I think it would behoove the county, the township, and basically everybody involved in this if something could be done to do something about the fringe people that are completely being left out of this,” said Mike Williams, whose neighborhood won’t get municipal water.

Township officials have said that some contaminated homes won’t be hooked up to the water system because they’re too remote. Instead, they’ll have to continue relying on the water and whole-house filters provided by Wolverine.

The state, along with Plainfield and Algoma townships, reached the $69.5 million settlement with Wolverine in December. Most of the money will pay to extend municipal water, starting with the House Street dump and the Wellington Ridge neighborhood. Some will go toward more testing and cleanup, including around the House Street dump and Wolverine’s former tannery in downtown Rockford.

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Some residents praised the state for moving so quickly. The state sued Wolverine in January 2018, later joined by Plainfield and Algoma townships. The attorney general is also suing 3M, which made the Scotchgard blamed for the Kent County contamination, as well as a slew of other companies believed to be responsible for PFAS pollution across Michigan.

But some questioned why Wolverine settlement money isn’t being set aside to treat diseases they fear they’ll get from drinking PFAS for years. Rick Langin, who lives in Algoma Estates, wonders if PFAS caused his ex-wife’s stage 4 breast cancer.

While many residents have filed their own lawsuits against Wolverine over property values and potential health problems, Langin has not.

“It’s good that the water system is being replaced now, but medical needs of these people, citizens and families, need to be taken care of,” Langin said.

The public can still email comments about the agreement through the end of the day Thursday at AGWolverineCD@michigan.gov.

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