PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Plainfield and Algoma townships say Wolverine Worldwide is asking a federal court to dismiss their lawsuit against the company. The townships allege the company says extending municipal water to residents with PFAS-tainted wells “is no longer necessary.”
While those exact words aren’t used in Wolverine’s court response, the company states it has provided access to safe drinking water to all affected residents by providing water filters “among other things,” and that’s one of the reasons Wolverine shouldn’t be forced to pay solely for the project.
In the four-page filing, Wolverine also questions the townships’ roles in suing the company. Wolverine says the court allowed the communities to intervene in the water matter, but did not say the townships were entitled to sue Wolverine.
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In a Wednesday news release, the townships called Wolverine’s response a “stunning about-face,” after the shoe manufacturer met numerous times with township officials and engineers about extending municipal water service to more than 300 homes in the House Street and Wellington Ridge areas.
Through their lawyer, the townships say the extension to PFAS-tainted homes “is the only viable long-term solution to the mess Wolverine World Wide has created,” and pointed out how the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality supports requiring Wolverine to pay for it.
Township attorney Douglas Van Essen says Plainfield Township has already put out more than $500,000 for engineering the project with the expectation that Wolverine would reimburse the costs under a consent decree. However, the company broke off settlement talks in November before signing a deal.
Wolverine said 3M, which manufactured Scotchgard that contained PFAS for a time, should also be responsible for paying for the water extension. A month later, Wolverine sued 3M.
In the Wednesday news release, VanEssen called Wolverine “incompetent in handling a pollution crisis,” saying the company didn’t know it needed plumbing permits to install whole-house filters, and installed them without consideration of building code requirements or oversight.
The lawyer said while they wait for a federal judge’s decision, the townships will focus on monitoring and establishing rules for Wolverine’s distribution of bottled water and installation of whole-house filters.
The townships expect the federal court to take up their case sometime before April 1.