Toxic tap water: DEQ investigating 75 dumps


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The number of dump sites the state is checking in the Wolverine Worldwide PFAS contamination investigation has grown to 75, state officials told Target 8 Monday.

That’s 18 more sites than when Target checked with the state about two weeks ago. State Department of Environmental Quality officials said that of the sites it has investigated so far, about 30 percent were confirmed tied to the Rockford-based shoe manufacturer.

Also Monday, work resumed on cleanup of one of the confirmed sites in a ravine off House Street NE at Imperial Pine Street following a two-week delay. Crews have uncovered layers of leather several feet deep.

Crews had halted work late last month after the Central Sanitary Landfill near Pierson, which is 18 miles away, stopped taking the piles of leather and other waste.

Now, crews are trucking it 153 miles away to Wayne Disposal in Belleville, the state’s only commercial hazardous waste landfill. They will dump it into containment cells lined with clay and two layers of thick plastic.

The PFAS, a likely carcinogen, comes from the Scotchgard Wolverine used for years to treat shoes at its now-closed tannery in Rockford.

Tests recently revealed 490,000 parts per trillion of PFAS on the tannery site on the Rogue River, as well as high levels in river-bottom sediment and lower levels in the Rogue’s surface water. The state said it plans to test more fish in the river to determine whether to expand a fish advisory.

Wolverine also dumped sludge and other waste around northern Kent County. The state has said that dumping was legal because there were no laws at the time to regulate it.>>Inside Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

Homes around one of Wolverine’s main dumps, on House Street NE in Belmont, have tested with high levels of PFAS, raising fears of cancer and other illnesses.

The DEQ says many of the 75 sites it’s investigating are based on tips from residents.

They include yet another site in a deep ravine about 1,000 feet off House Street NE. A neighbor there led Target 8 to the ravine, where moss was growing on mounds of leather. Target 8 also found several partially buried barrels, similar to those at other off-road dumps.

The landowner said she has already told the DEQ and expects a crew out on Monday to talk about possible cleanup.

Her first well test came back negative for PFAS, but she says her family is drinking bottled water until they get results from a second test.

>>App users: Interactive map of toxic tap water

Wolverine said it has spent about $500,000 so far in response to the contamination and expects to spend up to $3 million more this year alone. That includes footing the bill for testing, cleanup and providing water for residents.

On Monday, Wolverine announced it has gotten results for 413 of about 650 wells it has tested around the former House Street dump. Tests revealed six more homes — now a total of 28 — with PFAS levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion.

Wolverine says 385 wells have tested below that level, though it did not say how many were found to have lower levels or how many had no PFAS.

While the EPA’s limit is 70, other states have issued lower limits, including New Jersey, at 14 ppt.

Wolverine said it has installed 53 whole-house water filtration systems in the House Street study area and the initial buffer zone. It has offered to install the systems in more than 300 homes in those two areas.

The company also announced it would install whole-house filters in any home that tested at 70 ppt or higher in the southeast expansion area, which stretches south to Rogue River Drive and east to the river. It is also providing Culligan water to every home in the southeast expansion area.

The company didn’t say how many homes in that area tested at or above the EPA level.RESOURCES FOR BELMONT RESIDENTS:

If you are eligible for a whole-house water filtration system from Wolverine Worldwide, you can call 616.866.5627 or email

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center can be reached at 1.800.662.9278.

Websites with additional information on the contamination:

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