PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Kent County townships have reached a settlement with Wolverine Worldwide to extend municipal water service to areas where the shoe manufacturer’s waste contaminated private wells with PFAS.
Plainfield and Algoma townships will receive $69.5 million under the tentative deal announced Tuesday. The settlement still needs approval from a federal judge, which is expected to come in the next few weeks.
The money will pay to extend Plainfield Township’s water infrastructure to about 1,000 homes in both townships and to filter out PFAS from the municipal system.
All homes within the expansion area will have to hook up to the municipal system even if PFAS was not found in their wells.
Wolverine will foot the bill for hookup and connection fees and will keep paying for water filters at homes that won’t be added to the system even though PFAS was found there.
“Plainfield has already invested in developing plans for water main extensions and, assuming the settlement is finalized, will be ready to bid the projects after the first of the year so we can begin construction in 2020. We will be addressing priority areas first for those who have been most impacted in both townships,” Plainfield and Algoma township supervisors Cameron Van Wyngarden and Kevin Green said in a Tuesday statement.
The expansion should take about five years to complete.
PFAS is a likely carcinogen that has also been linked to other illnesses including ulcerative colitis, thyroid problems, hypertension in pregnancy and high cholesterol.
Wolverine waste dumped decades ago around Algoma and Plainfield townships, particularly at a landfill on House Street NE in Belmont, has been blamed for the PFAS contamination of private wells discovered in 2017.
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Getting money to extend the municipal system was always the goal of the townships’ lawsuit alongside the state of Michigan, which was filed in March 2018. As recently as February of this year, Wolverine tried to have the suit dismissed, saying the expansion was “no longer necessary.”
In their statement, the township supervisors thanked residents who were patient as the suit dragged on and said they appreciated being able to reach a resolution without a trial.
Wolverine President and CEO Blake W. Krueger stated Tuesday that the company was “committed to being part of water quality solutions for our friends, families and neighbors in the years to come.”
Michigan has been at the forefront of testing for and studying the health effects of the PFAS class of chemical, which was used in all sorts of things including the Scotchgard that Wolverine used to waterproof its shoes and a foam used to fight fires at airports.
“I am pleased to see progress toward getting relief for the residents and the environment in North Kent County,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a Tuesday statement. “PFAS contamination is a serious environmental problem that demands action, and I am proud that Michigan is leading the nation in efforts to combat PFAS contamination. Reaching a tentative agreement with Wolverine is an important step that moves us closer to our ultimate goal of ensuring that every Michigan resident has access to clean, safe drinking water.”
>>Online: Michigan PFAS Action Response Team
The firefighting foam was used at military bases across the country, so the federal government has been working out how to deal with it.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said he worked to get funding into National Defense Authorization Act to battle PFAS. He said the NDAA will include language to eliminate PFAS at all military facilities.
“The one area that I focused a great deal of effort on as a member of the Armed Services Committee was to make sure that the National Defense Authorization Act addressed the significant problem as a result of PFAS in Michigan, including a number of sites that were former military locations — particularly the former Wurtsmith base in Oscoda, but certainly other military facilities around the state,” Peters told News 8 in a satellite interview Tuesday.
Peters said the House and Senate have agreed on the military spending plan, which now needs to be passed by both bodies and then signed by the president.
—News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.