PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Plainfield Township is accusing Wolverine Worldwide of refusing to pay part of a $69.5 million settlement reached over PFAS contamination.
The township said it filed a request Friday for the federal court to get involved and force Wolverine to pay the final $19 million.
“The agreement plainly states that Wolverine is to pay Plainfield Township $69.5 million,” Plainfield Township Manager Cameron Van Wyngarden told News 8 Friday. “Wolverine is trying to weasel out of that and we want the courts to hold them responsible.”
“This has just been a continual slap to the face of our community,” he said.
A judge approved the federal out-of-court settlement in 2020, three years after PFAS contamination was discovered in drinking wells in Plainfield and Algoma Townships. The Rockford-based company used PFAS-laced Scotchgard to waterproof shoes decades ago. It dumped the waste in Plainfield and Algoma townships, contaminating wells with the chemical that has been linked to a number of illnesses, including certain types of cancer.
“Every step of the way, there has been some sort of pushback to doing the right thing,” Van Wyngarden said.
Wolverine Worldwide said it agreed only to pay the total actual costs to extend municipal water to more than 1,000 properties in Plainfield and Algoma townships — with a maximum of up to $62 million. It says the project is almost complete and it has paid more than $40 million, which is almost $20 million under budget. However, Wolverine claims the township is demanding the full $62 million, which it says is in direct conflict with the settlement agreement.
Wolverine said it filed a request on Thursday in federal court “to hold Plainfield Township to the terms of the Consent Decree, to confirm that Wolverine’s payment is limited to the Township’s total actual project costs, and to prevent the Township from recovering costs that it has not incurred.”
In a written statement to News 8, a spokesman for Wolverine said the company has held up its end of the deal and has asked the township why it needs more money. Wolverine says the township hasn’t responded.
The township manager said Plainfield has paid less than expected to pipe city water to homes with tainted wells, a project that should be done this fall. The township wants to spend the rest on its water plant and the wells that supply it.
Making matters worse, Van Wyngarden said, is that Wolverine got much of its money back through a $55 million settlement with 3M, the Minnesota-based maker of Scotchgard.
“Now they’re trying to renege on us while pocketing the money they received from 3M,” he said.
“Honorable companies should not require the Court’s intervention and additional public legal fees to hold them accountable to the environmental mess they created and the deal they struck, but apparently Wolverine does not care about that. It wants to stick the Township residents with the costs of dealing with its mess,” David Van Essen, the township attorney, said in a news release.
Sandy Wynn-Stelt lives across the street from Wolverine’s House Street dump and drank tainted water for years. Her husband died of cancer, and she was recently treated for cancer. She’s now co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.
“When you’re a company that’s done the kind of damage that this company has been a part of in this community, a wise corporation would just do what they said they would do,” she said. “Honor their word.
“I like neighbors that are honest and trustworthy and stick to their word, and now because of this, just from what I’m understanding, taxpayers are going to be stuck footing the bill for the mistakes that Wolverine made.”