Make Your Comments on the Wolverine Cleanup 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

White Pine Trail to be Re-Routed Through Downtown Rockford

White Pine Trail users will soon be re-routed around downtown excavation work planned for the trail and adjacent areas along Rum Creek.  Leather scraps, related tannery waste, contaminated soils, and river sediments will be removed by Wolverine Worldwide contractors as part of “Time-Critical” clean-up actions identified pursuant to a Unilateral Administrative Order issued on January 10 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Excavation work will include removal of any contaminated soils located within 3 feet of the trail surface.  Identified leather scraps and related debris along the trail will be removed to a minimum of 3 feet below grade.  Contaminated river sediments will also be removed from three specific locations – immediately upstream from the downtown canoe/kayak landing, a few yards downstream from Rum Creek at an undeveloped landing, and adjacent to the trail’s parking lot north of the Rockford Footwear Depot.

Work activities will require trail traffic to be re-routed from the parking lot mentioned above to the downtown canoe/kayak landing.  Information kiosks have been installed near these locations as part of the required work plan.  The kiosks are intended to display informational updates regarding trail usage as work commences.

Excavation traffic will be routed directly to North Main Street after temporary road surfaces are laid.  In order to reduce on-site traffic, trucks will be staged in the parking lot east of the former tannery location.  Temporary signs will be installed on North Main Street to warn motorists of the temporary truck entrance/crossing.  All excavation equipment will be regularly cleaned of “gross material” between excavation areas to reduce the chance of contaminated materials leaving the site.

On-lookers might be surprised by the substantial removal of trail vegetation during construction.  This will be required for adequate access to work areas.  However, the work plan includes plantings intended to restore the original character to affected areas as well as structural restoration and stabilization of the banks of both the Rogue River and Rum Creek.

Wolverine Worldwide is reportedly in the final stages of selecting their contractor to execute their work plan.  Work could start at the contractor’s earliest availability.  The permit required to re-route this section of trail has already been approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  Trail restoration will likely extend into the early part of next year.

Documents related to these activities (including the work plan) are available on a dedicated page at the EPA’s website (https://www.epa.gov/mi/wolverine-world-wide-tannery).  A CD-ROM disc has also been deposited at the reference desk of the Krause Memorial Library for use by individuals who do not have online access.

On-going community discussions about the pending trail closure and related activities are hosted by the Wolverine CAG at its monthly meetings.  The text of this article (in amended form) was submitted to the Rockford Squire earlier today to help fore-warn trail users of the impending trail closure.

EPA Website Documents for Wolverine World Wide

The EPA’s website includes a page dedicated to Wolverine World Wide’s Rockford Tannery and the House Street Disposal Area sites. The page includes a summary of events and contacts between the EPA and WWW representatives and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE). It also provides an archive of documents transmitted between these entities regarding the affected sites.

While the Wolverine CAG’s website is still under development, we wanted its visitors to have direct access to the information now provided at the EPA website. This can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/mi/wolverine-world-wide-tannery.

Debris and Soil Removal to Affect White Pine Trail

Our first regular public meeting was held Thursday, August 15, at the Rockford Freshman Center. Betsy Nightingale (EPA) and Abby Hendershott (Michigan EGLE – formerly DEQ) were our featured speakers charged with bringing attendees up to date regarding recent progress and planned activities. Brent Ritchie (Mannik & Smith Group, an EPA contractor) was also on hand to address technical details.

A perimeter fence has been scheduled for installation at the House Street site to better isolate that property from adjoining parcels. The scope of work involving potential contamination removal is still under development.

However, soil and waste removal will soon begin near the former tannery site. Affected materials are close enough to the surface to potentially contact people in several public access areas. This includes areas of the White Pine Trail as well as near-shore sediments in the Rogue River (adjacent to the tannery site). Work crews are anticipated to mobilize after Labor Day.

Work on the trail and river will require affected areas to be temporarily closed to public use. Containment measures will be used on the river. Trail restoration will result in some areas of fresh pavement.

Elsewhere, additional test wells have recently been drilled at Rockford’s Community Cabin. Regulators hope that the CAG can help forewarn the community about similar developments in the future.

The meeting was covered in local news by MLive.

CAG Formed, Website Launched

Welcome to the Wolverine Community Advisory Group (CAG) website.

Our charter members have held two organizational work sessions to determine the group’s initial structure and meeting format. Additionally, committees have been formed to address leadership, membership, and communication needs.

The Wolverine CAG has also scheduled its first public meeting to be held August 15. Please check back for more information.