PFAS in Kent County: How far it likely traveled

Toxic Tap Water
PFAS plume map EPA DEQ 112718_1543354726523.png.jpg

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — A newly released map shows just how far PFAS contamination in the Rockford area has likely spread.

In a November report, the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality say PFAS contamination at former Wolverine Worldwide sites appear to typically travel in “historic stream channels,” emptying into the Rogue River.

FORMER TANNERY

The highest concentration officials mentioned was 450,000 parts per trillion at the site of the former Wolverine World Wide tannery in downtown Rockford, where Scotchgard was used for decades. The waterproofing product contained high levels of PFAS when Wolverine Worldwide began using it in the late 1950s, according to the EPA and DEQ.

Researchers say the highest readings came from shallow groundwater monitoring wells on the former tannery site, but other wells didn’t detect any PFAS.

The plume appears to move west to the Rogue River. Experts believe further testing will reveal the plume follows the flow of the river to the south. More monitor wells are being installed to confirm this.

HOUSE STREET DUMP

The map indicates PFAS contamination from Wolverine’s former House Street dump site likely headed southeast, toward the Rogue River. The DEQ says PFAS concentrations at the core of the plume in Belmont are as high as 71,000 ppt — exponentially higher than the federal safety threshold of 70 ppt.

Officials say parts of the decades-old plume run 200 feet deep before the contamination discharges into the Rogue River.

>>PDF: November update to PFAS investigation

The EPA and DEQ say Wolverine used to dispose of lime-sludge, lime slurry and lime liquor at the state regulated site. The agency says while no waste was dumped on the site after 1970, the environmental impact and groundwater monitoring will likely continue for years.

The department says while the center of the House Street dump plume is stable, experts are trying to define its boundaries installing long-term wells.

WOLVEN AREA

The EPA and DEQ say they’ve detected contamination at Wolven Avenue NE north of 10 Mile in Algoma Township, where residents say Wolverine World Wide dumped material. The site was also once home to a gravel mining operation, according to the agencies.

A map estimating plume migration shows the Wolven area contamination heading in nearly every direction. The agencies say the main line of contamination has moved west toward Jewell Avenue NE before draining into the Rogue River at 11 Mile Road. However, the agency says initial data indicates several smaller, narrower contamination plumes exist to the north and southeast.

The DEQ called the Wolven area contamination and plume “extremely complex,” and said it’s still being defined through additional monitoring wells.

WHAT’S NEXT

The DEQ and EPA plan to hold an open house and informational meeting to update their investigation into the PFAS contamination on Jan. 23.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Rockford High School and include a public question and answer session.

Additionally in 2019, the DEQ plans to do additional drilling, monitor drinking water and install drinking water filters. Next year, the EPA plans to begin taking action on cleaning up the contamination.

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