Erin Brockovich meets with community dealing with PFAS water contamination

Erin Brockovich addresses a crowd in Comstock Park Saturday. 
↓ Advertisement ↓

The people of Kent County deserve to know the truth about the PFAS water contamination that could be detrimental to their health, said environmental activist Erin Brockovich on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Brockovich is widely-known for exposing a hexivalent chromium contamination in Hinkley, Calif. more than 20 years ago, dramatized in the self-titled movie, Erin Brockovich. She visited Comstock Park High School for a town hall led by three law firms that recently filed a class action lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide, 3M and Waste Management.

The lawsuit says the three companies "dumped toxic waste and polluted the groundwater in Belmont, Rockford and other areas in Kent County." Wolverine Worldwide dumped sludge from its tannery containing PFAS chemicals at an old landfill on House Street in the 1960s.

►Related: Water Worries: Prosecutors dig up 50 year old case in waste disposal suit

↓ Advertisement ↓

 "I continue to see this lack of transparency," Brockovich said. "This blatant disregard for any oversight and willy-nilly throwing your hazardous waste wherever you want, and it's finding its way into our water supply...it continues to go on."

The next step is to work backwards and uncover the whole truth of Wolverine's dumping practices over the years, she said. 

"This PFOS/PFOA, it didn't show up today," Brockovich said. "It's been around for a really long time, which we're already learning. It's getting a piece of the puzzle and putting it here and another piece and putting it here. That's where we are in the process." 

Wolverine Worldwide has tested more than 1,000 private wells in Plainfield and Algoma Townships and found nearly 200 contaminated with PFAS. Thirty wells exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime safe drinking water advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. Plainfield Township's municipal water also tests regularly around eight parts per trillion. 

"It's time to move forward in this case and to start the march forward in trying to get relief for these residents," said Sharon Almonrode, an attorney for Miller Law, one of the firms that brought the lawsuit.

State Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, who introduced a House bill last week to set Michigan's standard for PFOA safe drinking water at five parts per trillion, attended the town hall. 

"I've heard from folks today: local, state and federal disappointment in the responses of all those levels of government," Brinks said. "So I think this is a real call from our friends and neighbors here to examine our response. Are we doing enough?" 

Brockovich said the people of Kent County will be instrumental in her work on the case,

"Nobody knows your territory better than you," she told the crowd of a couple hundred. "I will listen to you. I will believe you." 

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WZZM 13 app now.

April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.