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Blue soil dug up at former Wolverine Worldwide dumpsite

Wolverine Worldwide is cleaning up the former tannery dumpsite, under the supervision of the EPA and Michigan officials.
Credit: EPA
Material excavated from the area with TCLP chromium exceedances. Note blue color of the soil.

ROCKFORD, Mich. — The EPA and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy are overseeing a clean-up project at the former tannery dumpsite for Wolverine Worldwide. Thursday, they provided an update on that cleanup to the Wolverine Worldwide community advisory group, which included a visual representation of the contaminated soil. 

The pollution was found at the House Street disposal area in Belmont, and updates from the EPA show the soil was contaminated with high levels of chromium, which turned the soil blue. 

In 2018, the EPA ordered Wolverine Worldwide to take certain actions to clean up the dumpsite. The House Street disposal area is the site where per- and polyflouroalkyl contaminants, commonly referred to as PFAS, were found in 2017. 

PFAS contaminants are an emerging environmental concern. They are compounds that are used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers and clothing manufacturers. The discovery of PFAS contamination is a growing trend across the country.

One of the cleanup actions ordered by the EPA required Wolverine Worldwide to locate and remove contaminated soil from the dumpsite. It was during this excavation that the blue soil was found. 

Credit: EPA
Close up of chromium in the soil excavated near the House Street disposal site.

Wolverine Worldwide is also responsible for removing contaminated surface soil near the former tannery, installing a fence around the House Street disposal to prevent direct contact and providing signs along the White Pine Trail, giving users safety and contact information about the pollution along the Rogue River. 

The pollution at the former tannery dumpsite seeped into the groundwater, and filters and bottled water were provided to impacted residents. 

Credit: EPA
Sheet piling being installed along the Rogue River on the northern portion of the site.

After PFAS was discovered in Belmont, the Michigan officials launched a statewide investigation into community, school, child care and tribal water supplies. 

The $1.7 million study found that 90% of water supplies across the state showed no detection of PFAS. However, only the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School near Grand Haven had test results exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).

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