About Wolverine CAG
The Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of volunteer community members affected by and concerned about the Wolverine World Wide (WWW) contamination in northern Kent County.
The purpose of the CAG is to provide a communication and education link between the community and all organizations involved in the clean-up.
According to its charter, the CAG’s mission is to:
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.
Read the Wolverine CAG Draft Charter.
Read the EPA’s Description of a CAG.
Find out when the next meeting is by visiting the calendar.
Contact us here.
- The CAG was formed in June 2019 and has approximately 20 members.
- The CAG is organized and facilitated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is not affiliated with the WWW company.
- The EPA and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) regularly attend meetings and cooperate extensively.
- CAG Meetings occur monthly and are open to the public.
- The CAG maintains a calendar and Facebook page with current information.
CAG Member Bios
Bio Coming Soon
John Hart is a graduate student at Grand Valley State University pursuing a M.S. in Biology with an Aquatic Sciences emphasis. He received his B.S. in Environmental Science with a specialization in Environmental Health from Oakland University in 2021. Through both degrees, his coursework has been water-oriented, specializing in identifying pollutants in aquatic systems as well as understanding both the fate and transport and the toxicological effects of these contaminants. His undergraduate coursework was also focused on public health and safety with courses in environmental health and environmental law. His research at Oakland University and Grand Valley State University are focused on identifying surface water contaminants and distilling the results into a product that can be given to interested stakeholders. These persistent organic pollutants at the Wolverine sites are an environmental and health hazard that has impacted all organisms in Rockford and the Rogue River watershed. He hopes to use his experience and background to help distill the opinions and results of governmental agencies and independent consulting firms to concerned citizens to help restore these contaminated sites.
Bio Coming Soon
I became a member of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation (CCRR) in 2010 when I lived across the street from the former Wolverine World Wide (WWW) tannery. As I worked with the group, I became increasingly concerned about potential releases of contaminants to the air, to surface water, and to groundwater. Fueled by this concern, I joined with others to request an investigation of the Site, post-demolition, by means of Citizen Preliminary Assessment Petition. I am one of 25 citizens who signed this document. I also worked to address the contamination issues from another angle—by running for Rockford City Council and subsequently being elected to this position in November 2012. As a city council member, I worked to establish an environmental a conflict resolution group involving the city of Rockford, WWW, the DEQ and CCRR. The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) was supportive of efforts to develop such a group, or even a CAG, if that better served the purposes of all the stakeholders. In the end, for multiple reasons, a CAG was never formed. As a member of the council, I grew more interested in law, so when I completed my city council term in 2016, I enrolled in Cooley Law School where I will complete my studies in December 2019. My hopes for the Wolverine CAG are this: that we will engage in a healthy, honest, and productive dialogue with all of the stakeholders, and that we will take action to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of those affected by the contamination issues related to the former tannery Site and the House St. dumpsite. These actions need to protect for the present and for future generations to come. The stakes here are profound.
Tobyn has lived in Plainfield township her whole life, save 1 year that she was a 4th grade teacher in Kansas. She married her husband in 2014. She is a mother to 2 boys, one born in 2016 and the other in 2020. A majority of the time she worked as a teacher but now stays home with her children and 2 dogs. Tobyn loves staying at home in the house that was purchased in 2012 to start a life. However, her sanctuary was tarnished by the fact that 20 times the EPA limit of PFAS was found in the drinking well there in 2017. Since then, she has felt the need to take up a torch of advocacy work and spreading awareness of why and how PFAS is toxic. She has spoken to Representatives and Senators at both State and Federal levels. She has done a lot of work with the media and has attended conferences and panels regarding PFAS. She joined the CAG in February of 2022 to help her community and keep the work going to address this home-town as well as global issue.
Jon is a retired mechanical engineer who worked in the consumer appliance industry for Bissell and Black & Decker. A native of Maryland, Jon has lived in the City of Rockford since 1991 with his wife, Mindy, and raised two daughters there. He is an environmentalist who volunteers for non-profit organizations to combat climate change and other human-caused environmental problems. Jon lives in a zero-carbon home adjacent to the Rogue River and enjoys playing guitar, hiking, biking, and exercise. Jon has been on the Rockford Planning Commission since 2008 and wants to fully understand the facts about the Wolverine Worldwide contamination and help guide effective environmental remediation, public health assessment and communication.
Elaine Isely is the Director of Water Programs at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, and it is in that role that she has served as advisor to the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation in Rockford since 2012. Elaine has more than 20 years of experience in law, environmental policy, research, outreach, and public speaking. She holds a B.S. in Finance from the University of Maryland, a J.D. from Wayne State University, and an M.S. in Biology/Natural Resources Management from Grand Valley State University. She is appointed to the Michigan State Waterways Commission, the City of Grand Rapids’ Stormwater Oversight Commission, and the Michigan State Waterways Commission; and she has published several academic and technical papers on environmental and collaborative management topics. Elaine also serves as an advisor to Grand Valley State University Natural Resources Management Department and to the Michigan Water School led by Michigan State Extension and Michigan Sea Grant. She is an advocate for the collaborative management of our water resources and for equitable access to clean water for all.
- Thanks again for your interest in joining the Wolverine CAG.
- Applicants are considered based on locale, occupation, affiliations, expertise, affect of contamination, and diversity of the membership.
- Members are volunteers who represent themselves, not any organization.
- Members are added each January, unless sudden vacancy warrants immediate action.
- The Membership Committee will recommend suitable applicants, but all applications will be reviewed by the full CAG before voting.
- All applicants will be notified of the outcome of the vote.
- To apply, fill out the Membership Form (see below) as a pdf and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Someone will contact you to confirm receipt of your application.
Before applying for membership, please read the CAG Charter, which includes:
- Mission Statement
- Member Service – representation, leadership, terms
- Member Expectations – attendance, conduct, contribution
- Operation – meetings, committees, process, support
- Ground Rules – cooperation, behaviour
- Established Committees – leadership, membership, communications, technical
Woverine Tannery PFAS Frequently Asked Questions
In short, a CAG (community advisory group) is a group of experts and local residents formed with the help of the EPA to facilitate communication between the EPA and communities affected by contamination and subsequent efforts.
From the EPA: A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse community interests. A CAG is designed to serve as the focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and EPA, the State regulatory agency, and other pertinent Federal agencies involved in cleanup of the Superfund site. Its purpose is to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. A CAG can assist EPA in making better decisions on how to clean up a site. It offers EPA a unique opportunity to hear-and seriously consider-community preferences for site cleanup and remediation. However, the existence of a CAG does not eliminate the need for the Agency to keep the community informed about plans and decisions throughout the Superfund process.
The Wolverine CAG serves in this role for the ongoing cleanup of contamination stemming from Wolverine World Wide’s operations in the Rockford and Plainfield areas.
Wolverine World Wide operated a tannery in downtown Rockford for decades. Operations at that site and waste dumping in the surrounding area contaminated soil and water with high levels of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, metals, ammonia and cyanide. Surface water and groundwater (including residential wells) near the tannery and dump sites were contaminatedwith high levels of PFAS (up to 490,000 parts per trillion), according to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
Much of this contamination was uncovered by a group of citizens concerned over the tannery demolition in 2010-2011.
The House St. site is being equipped with an impermeable cap. Contamination around the Tannery site has been mapped and the shallow contaminated soil (contaminated soil at 3 or fewer feet from the surface) is being excavated and disposed of. Sections of the soil have been excavated down to a 16 foot depth due to lead and/or chromium contamination. These excavations are the final step in the EPA emergency response actions, which will be followed by a long term remediative process. The municipal water supply is run through granular activated carbon (GAC), filtering PFAS levels to trace amounts.
PFAS, poly-and perflouroalkyl substances, are a large group of manufactured chemicals used for their waterproofing, non-stick and firefighting abilities. From World War II to the present day, they’ve been manufactured and used in non-stick pans (e.g. Teflon), popular waterproof technology (e.g. Scotchgard, Gore-Tex) and firefighting foams used on military bases and airports, according to Grand Valley State University. In high concentrations, some PFAS have been connected to health problems for humans.
PFOA, PFOS, PFNA about 3,000 others are some of the specific chemicals that fit under the PFAS umbrellas.
PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they stay in the environment and bodies for years. Many PFAS will not break down in the environment or bodies, but collect in places in the body, causing problems. Because of this process, called bioaccumulation, PFAS concentrations are prone to increase in bodies over time, according to the US EPA.
PFAS have dispersed throughout the environment and are found in nearly every human in the United States. People can be exposed to PFAS through products treated with PFAS, food grown in contaminated soil or irrigated with contaminated water, contaminated drinking water and other sources.
According to a study of people exposed to PFOA in the Ohio River Valley, there is a probable link between PFOA exposure and high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy induced hypertension. The EPA reports there are less clear links between certain PFAS and negative effects on birth weight and immune systems.
It could. Grand Valley State lists several substances that have important and measurable effects at similar levels. Read about it here.
If your water is contaminated with PFAS, there are in-home filters that can help. EGLE says a filter must meet NSF P473 standards. Read more from EGLE’s in-home filtration fact sheet under “Certified Filtration Systems.”
The Food and Drug Administration conducted a PFAS sampling study in 2019, which showed the the PFAS of most concern (PFOS and PFOA) were detected only in seafood, though other PFAS were identified in more foods. Seafood can have high levels of PFAS due to a process called bioaccumulation. Read more in Michigan’s PFAS Action Respsone Team’s (MPART) summary or in the FDA report itself.
Unfortunately the most viable remediation strategy is to excavate the contaminated soil and take it elsewhere for incineration, or take it elsewhere to stabilize the contaminants with minerals, resins, or other amendments. There are other technologies in development, but they face significant challenges preventing them from being used on a wide scale. Read more about these technologies in the Interstate Technology Regulatory Council fact sheet.
PFAS FAQs from other organizations
This list may not contain all available resources.
Grand Valley State University PFAS FAQs
Kent County Health Department PFAS FAQs
Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds PFAS Info
Michigan Comprehensive PFAS FAQs
Michigan PFAS Action Response Team FAQs
West Michigan Environmental Action Council PFAS FAQs
C8 Science Panel Reports (Ohio Valley PFOS studys)
EGLE In-Home Filtration fact sheet
MPART House Street Disposal Area information
MPART Rockford Tannery information
MPART Wolverine World Wide Documents