Water lines soon to replace Culligan man in PFAS-contaminated area

Toxic Tap Water

Crews install a water main on House Street as the Culligan man makes delivery. (May 28, 2020)

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As the Culligan man delivered bottled water to a home on House Street NE in Belmont Thursday, crews on the road out front were installing water pipes.

Hey, Culligan man: It won’t be long now before you’re no longer a necessity in this neighborhood.

Three years after the likely carcinogen PFAS was discovered in wells around Wolverine Worldwide’s old House Street dump, residents there are close to getting relief. That will mean turning on faucets sometime this summer and finally trusting what comes out.

Crews started working this month to get municipal water to homes near the old dump, where Wolverine dumped PFAS-laced waste for decades. Township officials say they’re ahead of schedule.

Crews install a water main on House Street NE in Belmont. (May 28, 2020)

“They moved on it pretty quickly once things started,” longtime Belmont resident Sandy Wynn-Stelt said. “I think everybody recognizes the urgency of it.”

The water will come from a Plainfield Township tower not far from House Street and stretch about two miles.

The pipes haven’t reached the old dump or Wynn-Stelt’s home across the street. She doesn’t drink her well water because it is ripe with PFAS. So is her blood, with the highest PFAS blood levels ever recorded.

Her husband died of cancer and she has thyroid problems, both of which have been linked to the class of chemicals that has been used in everything from firefighting foam to Teflon to food wrappers. Her lawsuit against Wolverine is still pending, as are many others.

“The positive thing is we’re getting water, and that is a huge relief for myself and my neighbors,” she said. “The downside of that is how much it is drastically changing our neighborhood. We kind of tell ourselves a tornado went through. That feels better than knowing that somebody came down and chopped down 200-year-old oak trees and lilac bushes and privacy hedges.”

wolverine worldwide house street landfill
Some neighbors are unhappy that crews cut down huge old oaks to make way for water on House Street NE. (May 28, 2020)

When Wynn-Stelt moved there nearly 30 years ago, she knew the dumpsite only as a Christmas tree farm.

“They put up a nice, new shiny fence with nice, new shiny signs and took down the trees that disguised it, so there’s little hiding that it’s a dump site now,” Wynn-Stelt said.

House Street is one of three PFAS zones in Plainfield and Algoma townships getting city water this year.

Most of the work is already done in a neighborhood across US-131. Some residents started getting city water last week in the Wellington Ridge neighborhood north of 10 Mile Road NE in Algoma Township.

Township officials say they expect House Street residents to have city water by July. They expect the entire PFAS water project will be done in 2023.

Wolverine Worldwide, which used PFAS-laced Scotchgard to treat shoes, and 3M, which made the Scotchgard, are sharing the $69.5 million cost through court settlements. It will pay to send township water to about 1,000 homes,

“I understand things change,” Wynn-Stelt said. “And so sometimes in life you have to pick the best of two bad options, and this is the best of two bad options.”

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