Nearly three dozen potential dump sites to be probed for contamination

State Senator Peter MacGregor says the vetting process for handling concerns is extensive and labor-intensive.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, MICH. - State officials have identified nearly three dozen potential dump sites in northern Kent County that bear scrutiny for contamination linked to Wolverine Worldwide.

The areas are primarily on private property in Kent County’s Plainfield and Algoma townships, state Sen. Peter MacGregor said Friday. Sites in Cannon Township will also be probed for the chemical used to waterproof shoes.

The disclosure follows a meeting Friday between local and state leaders and representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, he said.

“Right now, they have about 35 sites that they are willing to go out and check,’’ said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “There’s a few in Algoma; most of them are going to be in Plainfield Township. Most are going to be very close to those original legal dump sites and everywhere in between.’’

Related: CONSUMER ALERT: Watch out for water testing companies claiming to test for PFAS chemicals

The epicenter for groundwater contamination is a long-closed dumpsite on House Street NE used by Wolverine Worldwide. The Plainfield Township site closed nearly 50 years ago. Other known sites include a mothballed landfill on the east side of East Beltline Avenue north of Four Mile Road NE and a former municipal dump on 12 Mile Road east of Summit Avenue NE.

“Where they were supposed to dump it, we know,’’ MacGregor said. “Where they did dump it, we’re starting to find out.’’

These sites include private land about a half-mile east of East Rockford Middle School in Cannon Township. The discovery of hides east of Ramsdell Drive NE prompted Rockford Public Schools to bring bottled water to the middle school while its well water is tested.

“It’s significant because they found evidence there, but they don’t know if there’s evidence of the liquid waste and that’s why we’re going to be very cautious and test,’’ MacGregor said.

East Rockford is one of four schools in the Rockford district serviced by wells, rather than a municipal system. Water from the four schools is being tested “out of an abundance of caution,’’ Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler said.

The concern, of course, is a chemical used by Wolverine to waterproof shoes. It came on the radar earlier this year when it was discovered in well water at the Michigan National Guard’s Belmont Armory, located about a half-mile from Wolverine’s dump site on House Street NE.

That prompted testing at homes near the dump. Several came back with elevated levels of PFOS, a toxic chemical used in Scotchgard, which Wolverine used to waterproof shoes. Wells at more than 600 homes near the landfill will be tested for the suspected carcinogen.

MacGregor says the state is methodically going through information that comes in about potential dump sites, all of which must be vetted.

“Be patient,’’ he said. “They’re getting hundreds of phone calls and emails. But they will get to you.’’ 

Algoma Township Supervisor Kevin Green says his office has fielded many calls in recent weeks.

“We’ve been working with the DEQ to coordinate all the locations we’ve been made aware of,’’ Green said. “There are people who say they’ve witnessed dumping; there are a lot of claims. We don’t want to spook people; we want to verify these properly.’’

Gov. Rick Snyder’s office is also involved in the ongoing investigation, a spokesperson said.

“We have a team of experts from multiple departments working on the waste-dumping issue in the Rockford area, as well as the contamination cases involving similar chemicals at several military bases across the state,’’ Communications Director Ari Adler said in a statement. “Contamination of this sort is a growing national concern that many states are discovering and attempting to work through a solution for.

“In the meantime, the State of Michigan is working with companies like Wolverine Worldwide and the federal government to address the immediate needs of residents who have concerns about their water quality,’’ the statement concludes.

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