LANSING – Wolverine World Wide, the company accused of dumping waste that contaminated bodies of water in Kent County with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, said it has provided “every affected resident with access to clean and reliable water” following the discovery of PFAS in drinking water sources and therefore the lawsuit against the company should be thrown out.
The claims were made in a June 18 filing with the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The filing was a joint document from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Wolverine and two affected townships. Throughout the document, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is referred to by its former name, the Department of Environmental Quality.
Within the filing, the Department of Environmental Quality alleges Wolverine caused “imminent and substantial endangerment” to the people of Rockford through use of their tannery facility, which used materials containing PFAS to manufacture boots, shoes and other leather goods for decades.
The filing alleges that Wolverine “buried or placed tannery wastes, including hides and leather on the tannery site” and that the PFAS-contained wastes have “leached PFAS contaminants into the environment.”
“(The) EPA has determined that human exposure to PFOA and PFOS, two of the prominent PFAS chemicals in Wolverine’s wastes, present a risk of adverse health effects to humans including but not limited to development, thyroid, liver and immune system effects,” the Department for Environmental Quality writes in the filing. “Elevated levels of PFOA and PFOS have been found in surface water, river sediment, foam and animals and have led to the issuance of a fish consumption advisory and a health advisory regarding PFAS foam for some waterways impacted by PFAS released by Wolverine.”
The department goes on to claim that “high concentrations” and “elevated levels” of the chemicals have been detected in groundwater, surface water, foam, sediment and in the drinking water for residents of north Kent County.
But Wolverine in court documents said the department is blowing the situation out of proportion, and that “there is no imminent and substantial endangerment” for Kent County residents as the company has provided bottled water and filters to affected households and has also offered to build a replacement drinking water well for the community. The company also accuses Kent County health officials, along with Plainfield and Algoma townships, of “actively interfering with Wolverine’s remedial action.”
“(F)or homes where PFOA or PFOS was detected, Wolverine provided filters, including over 500 whole-house filters… Wolverine has monitored the filters, some as often as weekly, to ensure their effectiveness,” the filing reads. “(I)t has collected thousands of verification samples from hundreds of homes, and none of the actual data gathered from over 18 months of operation has even suggested that the filters are not effective or reliable.”
The company added that there was “no dispute that every affected resident has access to a filter, and there is no dispute that the filters are effective at removing PFOA and PFOS from drinking water.” Filters provided to affected residents, Wolverine alleges, are the same model as those used “for similar remedial actions at other PFAS sites, including in Vermont and New York.”
Wolverine uses this exact defense five times against seven total claims leveraged against it by both the Department of Environmental Quality and affected townships.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.