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.