State and Community to Review Wolverine Worldwide Feasibility Study for Clean-Up of the House Street Dump Site

The Wolverine CAG (Community Advisory Group) was formed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the summer of 2019 to act as a communication link between Wolverine Worldwide, the EPA, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and the community. The CAG is made up of volunteer community members with backgrounds in chemistry, law, engineering, and other disciplines; municipal representatives; and individuals who have been directly impacted by the contamination. The CAG’s mission is to ensure that the response activities at the Wolverine Worldwide sites protect and sustainably restore the environment for human health, fish, wildlife, and recreation through community participation, and that important community concerns are understood and considered during any related investigation and response action.

On February 11th, an article was published in the Rockford Squire in which Wolverine Worldwide described their preferred option for long-term remediation of the House Street Dump site. The option presented would create a park, with trails and a parking lot that would be open to the public. The plan would rely on a process called phytoremediation where trees are used to draw up PFAS from the waste through the roots and store it.

Wolverine presented two options for the clean-up of the House Street dump site to the CAG on January 28th. We have begun reviewing this information in order to prepare a full response to the feasibility study. The complete feasibility study was submitted to EGLE on February 19th as required by the court settlement agreement, and it explains the remediation options in more detail. As soon as EGLE makes it available for public comment, the CAG will review it thoroughly and respond with any concerns, questions, and recommendations. EGLE will host an online review of the feasibility plan for public comment in late March, and the CAG will provide details about the public comment period as soon as that is available.

To stay on top of this and other related remediation work, visit our website @ www.wolverinecag.org and EGLE’s website at www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse. You may also join our monthly CAG meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m. Currently, these meetings are virtual to comply with safety concerns related to COVID-19. Meeting information can also be found on our website, or you can email us @ info@wolverinecag.org

Upcoming Wolverine CAG Meeting on 2/18/21

Wolverine Community Advisory Group

Full CAG Meeting

Online Using Zoom

 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Join Zoom Meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89018854084

 

Phone-in Option:

312 626 6799

Code  890 1885 4084#

 

Draft Agenda (all times are approximate)

6:00 PM        Welcome

  • Introductions
  • Agenda Review

 

6:10 PM        EGLE Updates

  • Upcoming report reviews and public comment periods

 

6:30 PM        House Street Cleanup Proposal

  • Overview of House Street Waste locations
  • Overview of Wolverine proposal
  • CAG next steps in review and comment on upcoming proposals

 

7:30 PM        Public Comment

 

8:00 PM        Adjourn

 

CAG Mission:

1) ensure that the response activities at the Wolverine World Wide sites protect and sustainably restore the environment for human health, fish, wildlife, and recreation, through community participation; and

2) that important community concerns are articulated, understood, and considered during any related investigation and response action.

CAG Ground Rules:

  • work cooperatively with each other, supporting agencies, and other stakeholders,
  • be respectful of all participants,
  • approach all issues and viewpoints with an open mind,
  • focus on what is important to the community as a whole and articulate community concerns in a way that all stakeholders can understand,
  • seek common ground wherever possible, and present and respect minority opinions where they exist

Preliminary House Street Feasibility Study Plans Provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Recently, Wolverine Worldwide and GZA provided the Wolverine Citizen Advisory Group with their preliminary plans for the House Street Feasibility Study.  Their willingness to reach out to the CAG and the neighbors and to seek feedback was certainly welcomed and appreciated.  However, there are many concerns with the options provided and several significant questions remain about these plans.  Please review the links below to learn more about the contamination at this site, and Wolverine’s suggestions for addressing this.  The public is also encouraged to attend the Wolverine CAG meeting on February 19th where this will be discussed further. 

 

House Street Summary Report  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-06/documents/wolverine-implementation-2018-workplan.pdf

PFAS Phytoremediation example  https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.7b02926?casa_token=xp61PtMMpeYAAAAA:kOgbLmFMqjY5OTitGlSMv11vTFqfkw4EnW2bm1URulFpcdRkp23WLLmYd6TNsxQVQcjJwC8lJ4wgIt4

PFAS, PFOS, PFOA chemicals, drinking water, and the Wolverine CAG

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Linda Goossen

I am writing this blog as a member of the Wolverine CAG. My husband and I moved to downtown Rockford back in 1975; we raised our four children here and still reside in the same house we moved into 46 years ago. I have a Ph.D. in Science Studies from WMU and am a retired Professor of Medical Laboratory Science from GVSU. Up until 2000 – for 25 years – our drinking water source was the Rogue River. Thus, the PFAS contamination in the Rogue River is of vital concern to me and has motivated me to join the Wolverine CAG.

In 2017, I learned that Rockford and North Kent County residents were exposed to PFAS* in a multitude of ways: in their drinking water, by eating fish from contaminated water, by working in facilities that used PFAS, in addition to the multitude of ways the general population is exposed to PFAS. Evidence shows that these PFAS are absorbed and can accumulate in the body and stay in the body for a long period of time. Studies have shown that PFOA and PFOS are related to increased cholesterol levels. There are also limited findings that the PFAS are related to low infant birth weights, deleterious effects on the immune system, cancer (PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (PFOS).

In the light of such serious findings, I believe that the function of the Wolverine CAG is for education and advocacy. As a health-care professional, I believe that both education and advocacy are necessary for the health of the community, whether it be your professional community or your residential community. People need to know what the science-based facts are about an issue. They also must have the ability and courage to advocate – that is, to convey their message and recommend a particular cause or policy to people or groups that can further their cause. For example, the Wolverine CAG works very closely with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The wide distribution of PFAS in Rockford and North Kent County has taken its toll on many households, and there are additional households that may be affected. It is incumbent upon the CAG to research the further pollution of soil and drinking water and to inform the citizens of these areas. It is also necessary that the CAG continue to work with governmental agencies to enforce actions when PFAS levels are higher than the maximum amount allowed in drinking water (MCL). Last year members of the CAG and others were successful in advocating for lowering the Michigan MCLs.

The work of the Wolverine CAG is not finished. It is very likely that more sites of contamination will be found. Private drinking water wells remain at risk and residents have a right to know about the risk of PFAS contamination of their wells and thus their drinking water. Without the efforts of the citizen-members of the CAG, educating residents and advocating for safe drinking water, progress would be much slower – if at all.

*PFAS are Per- and polyflouroalkyl substances that are man-made and used in industrial and commercial processes, particularly in products that are stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas). The PFAS that are most studied are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesullfonic acid (PFOS).

 

 

Wolverine World Wide to Give Presentation to CAG Members on Thursday, 1/28/21

Wolverine World Wide will be making a presentation to the CAG on Thursday from 7:00-8:00 p.m., concerning the House Street Feasibility Study (FS). The FS document is required to be submitted to EGLE by February 19, 2021. Updates will be provided on the remediation alternatives proposed for the House Street Site. The link for the Zoom presentation is below:

Thursday, January 28, 2021 at 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Link: https://wwwinc.zoom.us/j/99669782148

Meeting ID: 996 6978 2148

Phone: 877-369-0926 (toll free)

Reflection and Reassurance

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Carol Butts

I want to send my prayers out to everyone that they stay safe and healthy. One of the toughest things in 2020 is dealing with a pandemic while also trying to weather the waters of the long term PFAS health and environmental crisis. Being a part of the community action group (CAG) is a nice way to promote environmentally friendly goals to rejuvenate development for healthier living. Like many others, I have had to refocus and contend with immediate issues hitting us all, everywhere imaginable.  Both PFAS and the COVID-19 virus pandemic affect each of us differently in many ways and unpredictably. Current attentions must turn to meet immediate needs as we face serious threats to our children’s futures, their education, their livelihoods, our work lives, financial stability, personal health, and family health. For many, loss of social structures that normally bring a sense of security, strength, and community are vastly interrupted. What is comforting to know is that together we will weather this storm and once this short-term fight is over, we will still be here, as a PFAS CAG, with the common goal to support our community welfare for this and future generations.

All the best,

Carol Butts, MPH

MiPEHS, a Study of PFAS Effects on Health, Gets Underway

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Tammy Bergstrom

The Wolverine Community Advisory Group (CAG) continues to meet monthly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Meetings (via Zoom) are open to the public and include updates on various activities stemming from the PFAS contamination in Rockford and Belmont.

At a recent meeting, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services toxicologist Joost van ‘t Erve provided an overview of the upcoming Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS), which is now underway.

“The study is designed to look at health effects related to PFAS and includes testing to see if there’s a relationship between blood levels of PFAS and certain diseases,” said van ‘t Erve.

The study will be ongoing through 2026. Participants will complete an online health survey and provide blood samples three times over the course of the study. Van ‘t Erve noted that the study is voluntary and participants can join at any time throughout the study.

Van ‘t Erve stated that  roughly 1,800 households from the northern Kent County area, whose water was previously sampled by or at the direction of a state agency, will be directly contacted to participate; letters are now being mailed to eligible households. The research team will continue to recruit participants until the optimal number of people is reached.

In order to be eligible for the study, residents must have had their wells previously tested by a state agency for PFAS and have used that water within the last 15 years. Their well is not required to have contained a detectable level of PFAS in order for the resident to be eligible for the study, but rather, their well just needs to have been tested for PFAS prior.

“You need to have lived there and used the water after 2005,” van ‘t Erve explained.

MiPEHS will also include residents in the Parchment and Cooper Township area in southwest Michigan. Although residents of the City of Rockford, and other areas with municipal water, are not eligible to be part of MiPEHS, van ‘t Erve noted the possibility of a future study of newborn blood spots from people born since 1987. These samples would be related to the level of PFAS in the mother’s blood at the time of birth. MiPEHS is laying the groundwork research for using these sample in the future to address public health questions. Study participants will be asked to provide access to their newborn bloodspot as part of enrolling in MiPEHS.

More information about the Wolverine CAG including upcoming meetings can be found at https://wolverinecag.org/ and blog posts from other members can be found here.

More information about the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS) can be found at the new website launched by the MDHHS.

Summer of 2020

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

Tree removal and water line installation along Chandler Drive
Water line connection to our home

by Jennifer Carney

2020. The year that has brought a lot of unexpected and unpleasant things for most of us. For me, one of those things was being connected to our local municipal water source. When we bought our home in Belmont 10 years ago, one of the main selling points for us was the fact that we would have all-natural, no cost, well water. The home we moved from was in downtown Rockford. We had just had an increase on our city water bill due to the Wolverine World Wide Tannery being removed. The explanation we received went something like, ”We are raising the cost of water service for residents to make up for the loss in contribution from the tannery.” I didn’t know how water systems worked. All I knew was that my water bill grew a great deal.

After being in my Belmont home for 7 years, I was told by a law firm that there was a highly contaminated dump site located near my home and my well water was likely contaminated. I’d seen the Erin Brockovich movie, and that was the extent of my understanding of water contamination. Never did I imagine something like that would happen here, or to me. Getting our water test results was bittersweet news. On one hand, I was obviously devastated that my contamination was high, and on the other hand I now knew the reason for all my unexplained health issues; Drinking poison affects everyone differently, but the consensus is it doesn’t do a body good.

After years of legal battling back and forth, Wolverine World Wide is liable to fund the connection of municipal water to homes they’ve negatively impacted due to their past actions. Construction for my street started in April of 2020. Like many, I was assigned to work from home due to COVID-19. What timing. I was able to witness the progress of tree and road removal, limited (or no) access in and out of my driveway, ditch digging, utility outages (many utility outages), water line laying, missed deliveries and trash pickups, dangerous surprises while driving down the road, holes in my yard, well removal, spotty road repaving, etc.

While it’s great that I now don’t have to worry about my well going out (because I wouldn’t be allowed to get a new one), and there will be no more testing and filter issues, I’ll now unfortunately have a water bill again and a bill for continued bottled water service. You may wonder why we would continue with bottled water since we have municipal water now.  Well, it’s hard to know exactly how you’d handle a situation until you’re in it. For us, it was being so blindsided by this entire situation at the hands of those previously in charge at DEQ, those at Wolverine World Wide and those at Plainfield Township who were aware of the toxic site. Yet they allowed me, my family, friends, and neighbors to ingest these chemicals; I simply don’t have much trust left.

I’ve learned so much the past 3 ½ years, a lot of which I honestly wish I was still naïve to. Learning about regulatory and legislative processes took a toll on me. I feel that business is not more important than public health, However business seems to rule, and our health ends up paying the price. We need to do better. There can be a balance. There is no reason that a business should cause their community and consumers pain and change their lives forever.

I urge everyone to take it upon themselves to learn what they can about the environment around them and speak up to make change to better our community. There is no doubt there are many areas in the country in the same situation that we are, and unfortunately, most are not yet realized. I will never forget sitting in a Senate hearing and listening to the Kentucky senator, after hearing about Michigan, say, “I’m glad we don’t have a PFAS issue in Kentucky”. That sticks with me because Kentucky wasn’t testing for PFAS. No testing would obviously lead to no problem detected. Again, we can do better.

I’m glad to finish this chapter; however, this isn’t the end of the story.

PFAS Cleanup Criteria Development Information Sessions

Session I: Monday 11/2/2020 3pm – 4pm

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3093176208320619023

Session II: Monday 11/16/2020 1pm – 2pm

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5971861477071630093

This informational meeting, hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), is a follow-up to the first meeting on 11/2/2020 in which the process and rules for establishing cleanup criteria were discussed. In accordance with the state drinking water standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that became effective 8/3/2020, this second part of two sessions will present the results of the first part of the process. Attendees will see the calculations for generic cleanup criteria for groundwater that is used as drinking water.