Restoration Amid a Pandemic.

The past three months have been a whirlwind for us all. As somebody observing the PFAS crisis as an outsider, it has been a challenge to remind myself that much like the virus obstructing our lives, PFAS does not operate on our work schedule. The month of March was one of adjustment. Adjusting to the new virtual layout that allows the CAG to continue functioning. 

But running with the new Zoom video call meeting format, in April we continued to see updates from EGLE and the EPA. Both of the agencies continue to work in the area. At the April CAG meeting, we were given a presentation by EGLE’s Karen Vorce and Mark Worrall on the Wolven-Jewell source area, which is much more geologically complex than House Street or the Tannery sites making it more difficult to track the plume from it. 

The EPA shared updates on the restoration of the White Pine Trail, noting that the restoration will continue despite Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home Stay Safe order. The CAG reviewed the restoration plan, a discussion that had been planned for the cancelled March meeting. The specifics laid out in that plan (available on both the CAG website and EGLE’s) are not set in stone, so to speak, and the plant selection may be limited due to the pandemic. However, all plants chosen will still be native Michigan plants, and the trail is expected to be usable again in 1-2 months. It may not feel like a lot, but having a reminder that work is still being done to deal with the PFAS crisis is something I believe a lot of us needed to nurture our morale.

Also, please tune in this Thursday at 6:00pm (5/21/2020) to hear updates on the Department of Health and Human Services public health study, EGLE’s consent decree projects, and the water system in Plainfield Township.

Andrew Fishback, West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) Water Fellow

PFAS Water Testing

EGLE has created two videos to guide you in collecting samples for PFAS water analysis and filling out the PFAS Water Analysis Form. Both videos are for residential sampling and are also available on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s State Drinking Water Lab web page, here.

If you have questions regarding this process please contact the Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278.

Meet the CAG

Wolverine CAG members bring a range of experience and expertise
Andrew Blok, Journalism Intern at West Michigan Environmental Action Council

When trust is broken, it takes work and time to rebuild it.

The Wolverine Community Advisory Group (CAG) was established to fix that and has drawn a team of members with a wide range of experiences and expertise. That diversity will help the CAG best facilitate the discussion between the community and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), keeping all parties informed throughout the cleanup process.

A CAG is a group formed with the help of the EPA in order “to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns” throughout the cleanup process of contaminated sites. A group like this “offers EPA a unique opportunity to hear—and seriously consider—community preferences for site cleanup and remediation.” Because it’s such a vital link between community and EPA, it’s important that a variety of interests are represented.

The 21 council members include legal and environmental experts, conservation activists, local politicians and local residents who have been harmed by Wolverine Worldwide’s PFAS contamination or affected in other ways. It’s a mix that’s well suited to understand and effectively engage a broad range of concerns and developments throughout the cleanup process.

For example, A.J. Birkbeck is an environmental compliance attorney who has been involved with the Wolverine Worldwide site since 2010, even before the site’s contamination was widely known or accepted. He’s the managing director of the new PFAS Alliance, which represents communities affected by PFAS across the state.

Jenny Carney has experienced the impacts of PFAS contamination firsthand. She writes that when PFAS contamination was discovered in her home’s well, her house lost value, her water was unusable, and she connected the dots between her contaminated water and her family’s health issues.

Kevin Green brings to the CAG long experience in government and his current role as Algoma Township Supervisor. Green has already been working to get information about possible contamination in Algoma already. The township has joined a lawsuit with Plainfield to push Wolverine Worldwide to accept greater responsibility in resolving the contamination problems and restoring clean water to affected residents.

These CAG members, including WMEAC’s Director of Water Programs, Elaine Sterrett Isely, are joined by other experts, affected community members, and government officials. The vast majority of the board lives, works or enjoys the water resources in and around the affected area. Many have been directly impacted.

That local experience, often with the direct impacts of PFAS, will be invaluable in fielding residents’ concerns and communicating EPA actions as the cleanup moves forward, hopefully with growing transparency and trust.

A complete list of members and their bios will be available on wolverinecag.org.

Make Your Comments on the Wolverine Cleanup Community Involvement Plan

EPA Draft Community Involvement Plan

Wondering what’s being done about the contamination at the former Wolverine World Wide sites in Rockford and Belmont? 

The US EPA recently opened a public comment session on a community involvement plan for the cleanup of those sites. Until October 19, you can submit comments on the plan, which outlines how the EPA will involve and inform the public throughout the cleanup. 

Public comments are a great way to ensure the community involvement plan fits your community’s needs. Comments can be submitted to russell.diane@epa.gov until October 19.

The draft plan can be viewed at: https://semspub.epa.gov/work/05/949618.pdf