By: Tammy Bergstrom, Wolverine Community Advisory Group Member
North Kent County residents may have noticed well drilling activity around the Rockford and Belmont areas over the past 18 months. Recent drilling activity, including on Summit Avenue, 12 Mile Road and within Rockford city limits, is part of the network of monitoring wells called for in the 2020 Consent Decree between Wolverine Worldwide, the State of Michigan and Algoma and Plainfield townships related to the per-and poly fluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) groundwater contamination.
More than 150 wells are included in the monitoring network, with most already drilled or installed. The well depths range from relatively shallow, such as those near the Rogue River, to depths greater than 200-feet, depending on area geology and proximity to drinking water wells.
Karen Vorce, Acting District Supervisor for Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Remediation & Redevelopment Division, said once the network is completed for a particular investigation area, wells will be sampled for PFAS on a quarterly basis with samples sent to a lab and results shared with EGLE.
Sampling will be conducted by GZA, the private environmental consultant contracted by Wolverine Worldwide. Following a full year of quarterly sampling of the well network, GZA will evaluate the data in consultation with EGLE and determine appropriate next steps. A long-term monitoring schedule will be documented and included within the Completion Report discussed in Section 7.12 of the Consent Decree (see link below).
The majority of the groundwater monitoring wells are in the area roughly bounded by 12 Mile Road, Wolverine Boulevard, West River Drive and U.S. 131. About 30 well sites are west of U.S. 131.
While the monitoring wells are dispersed throughout the area, notable clusters are located within the City of Rockford along the Rogue River, with about 15 wells on the east side of the river and three on the west side; the House Street area west of US 131, with approximately 12 wells; and the Belmont area north of Rogue River Road and west of the Sierra Estates neighborhood, with about 15 wells.
Another area with a high concentration of groundwater monitoring wells is around the North Kent Landfill. However, that well system is not part of the Consent Decree but is rather its own separate investigation, not completed by Wolverine, but by Kent County, the owner of the landfill.
Contamination at Former Sole Plant
In addition to the groundwater monitoring system called for in the Consent Decree, additional investigation is underway by the U.S. EPA, in an effort to evaluate the contaminated tannery property in downtown Rockford for Superfund status. As part of that investigation, soil and groundwater samples were also collected at the Wolverine-owned property located at 485 Wolverine Drive NE. EGLE also collected groundwater samples there for PFAS analysis. Based on those results, PFOS contamination was discovered on the approximately 12-acre site, with levels reaching 1250 parts per trillion in groundwater near the river and similarly high levels closer to the buildings.
This property, known as the former sole plant, had not previously been tested and is not governed under the Consent Decree. In March, EGLE sent a compliance communication to Wolverine requesting a work plan outlining how they intend to take care of the contamination. Wolverine submitted the Work Plan in April and is currently in process of completing additional sampling at the property.
If PFAS is found at any of the other wells in the monitoring system, Vorce said subsequent action will depend on location of the well and its purpose. If contamination is found in perimeter monitoring wells, Wolverine would be required to install additional wells to define the boundaries of contamination. If contamination is found in a groundwater-surface water (GSI) well, which are those near surface water such as the Rogue River, the company would be required to propose a response action to address the contamination.
Detailed Information Available at MPART
More detailed information about the monitoring well network can be found in the Consent Decree, at the link below. The following Response Activity Plans detail the monitoring well installation activities:
● Area 5 Response Activity Plan
● Area 6 Response Activity Plan
● Area 11 & 12 Response Activity Plan
● Area 19 Response Activity Plan
● Groundwater-Surface Water (GSI) Response Activity Plan
● GSI Investigation Summary and Work Plan Report
● Perimeter Groundwater Monitoring Response Activity Plan
● Tannery Interceptor System Response Activity Plan
These plans which are posted on the House Street Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) website found here: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/investigations/sites-aoi/Kent-County/house-street-disposal-area.