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.

Our Mission

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 meeting in September of 2019 (photo courtesy of Garret Ellison and MLive.)

Facilitation

  • 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.

Meetings

  • 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

Tamara (Tammy) Bergstrom is a Rockford resident and currently serves on the Rockford City Council. She and her husband, Herb, have lived in the City of Rockford for more than 35 years and their children attended Rockford Public Schools and Our Lady of Consolation grade school. Tammy formerly worked as a reporter for a variety of newspapers, covering Rockford and other northern Kent County municipalities. She currently serves as the marketing manager for a large regional law firm.
A. J. is both a hydrogeologist and an environmental compliance attorney, and is the Managing Director of the PFAS Alliance (a group of PFAS impacted communities across Michigan). He has been involved with the Wolverine Sites since August of 2010, when he was retained by tannery neighbors to provide input regarding the Wolverine Tannery demolition. He has remained involved in monitoring the investigation and response actions associated with Wolverine-related waste. Moving to Cannon Township near Belmont, he frequently enjoys recreational use of the Rogue and trails in the Rockford area. Working with citizens, he helped identify PFAS in and around the tannery, including historical deposition in the House Street area. As a member of the CAG’s technical committee, A. J. looks forward to providing input into work plans, investigations and response actions in CAG areas by working with regulators and Wolverine representatives.
My name is Jenny Carney, I am a wife and mother of two residing in my current Belmont home for that past 9 years. On August 22nd, 2017, I was informed that my home’s well water was potentially contaminated with PFAS. 7 weeks later, it was confirmed. Over the months that followed, more was uncovered about who knew what, and when. I learned there are people in positions whose role it is to protect the public but chose to significantly delay information from being shared to their residents. My water was left unusable, my newly renovated home significantly declined in value, and I realized this is likely the reason for me and my family’s health issues. All of this has motivated me to be involved in making sure my neighborhood receives the relief they need and ensure other communities are made aware of contamination they may have. I’ve worked with local, state and federal officials, agencies, organizations and professionals. I’ve also contributed to many media stories, films and speaking engagements.
My family has been part of Plainfield Township since 1870. We have been fighting ground water pollution since the 1960s. Our family farm (Braman Orchards) was located adjacent to the Bell Landfill (a longtime Superfund site) and was the target of eminent domain proceedings to expand the landfill. I have been fishing the Rogue River since the 1960s and have been an environmental activist since that time. I have witnessed, first hand, the destruction of the Rogue River and the long-term rehabilitation that has occurred. Our family history resides in Plainfield Township and the resolution of this problem is a requirement for the long-term health of the community.
I am a retired professor of Medical Laboratory Science and Associate Dean of Health Professions from Grand Valley State University. I and my husband have lived near downtown Rockford for 45 years, and we raised our four children here. Our family drank Rogue River water, which we now know was contaminated with PFAS, for over 20 years. Professionally, I was a member of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science’s Government Affairs Committee for six years, chairing the national committee for three years. As a member of that committee, I went to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. annually to speak to our elected official about federal legislation and regulation that impacted medical laboratories, our patients, and our laboratory professionals. Since 2016, I have served on the Spectrum Health Institutional Biosafety Committee, which provides local oversight for research involving recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules. I believe my background in Medical Technology, which includes microbiology and hematology, my advanced education in Science Studies, and my professional experiences provide me with skills to contribute to the CAG mission.
Brenda Harris has been a resident of this area for nearly 30 years, first residing in downtown Rockford then moving to Belmont where she and her husband have lived and raised their family for over 21 years. She is among the many residents directly impacted by the contamination site in Belmont. This crisis has changed many things in her neighborhood and in her life, but it has also inspired a strong sense of civic duty to get involved and be a part of the solution. As a member of the CAG, her hope is to engage in the discussion, support the organizational objectives and represent an extension of the community voice as we examine solutions that serve residents and protect our natural environment. Her work history includes 18 years in IT for a local Internet provider. In 2015, she changed direction and began a new career in travel and tourism. She is currently a Group Reservationist Agent and Insurance Specialist for Witte Travel & Tours, a leading tour operator specializing in custom domestic and international group tours and vacation travel. She is passionate about travel and enjoys many personal opportunities to explore the world.
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.
I got involved with the CCRR by default due to the fact that I was driving my kids to school when I noticed demolition activities occurring at the Wolverine Worldwide former plant. Though I had my own concerns regarding the demolition of the WWW tannery in 2010-2011, it was not until I attended the EPA Community Meeting on April 24, 2012, that these concerns all became shockingly real. Comments being made by the city government and other civic leaders – that Rockford is a ‘special’ community and able to navigate its own contamination issues – did not match up to the grave reality of the facts. When the public discussion turned to lead, and it seemed that even lead exposures were being downplayed, I launched up from my seat and told it how it was. “Hey, I’m Tom Konecsni and I’ve just moved from California and there are no safe levels of lead.” Shortly after this meeting, I met up with some of the members of the CCRR to discuss my concerns and to volunteer my time and abilities. Over the next seven years, I was able to contribute to the work in a variety of ways. I helped with sample collecting, attended core group meetings, located tannery workers for interviews, met with a representative from Senator Gary Peters’ office, and helped track down other possible areas of contamination. I found the work to be interesting and compelling, especially having elementary school-age children attending Valley View Elementary School and also with my home’s location now being impacted by the West Wolven Street plume. My work experience in the private sector as an Environmental Health and Safety Manager/Leader offers a unique skill set and perspective to my participation in the Wolverine CAG, and I look forward to having a substantive role in the on-going challenges of caring for the health and safety vitality of my community.
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.
Is a retired engineer who worked in the consumer appliance industry for Bissell and Black & Decker. Jon has lived in the City of Rockford since 1991 with his wife, Mindy, and raised two daughters there, where they probably drank contaminated city water for a decade. He is a “tree-hugger” 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, sailing and exercise. Jon has been on the Rockford Planning Commission since 2008 and the Board of Zoning Appeals since 2016. He wants to fully understand the facts about the Wolverine contamination and help guide effective environmental remediation, public health assessment and communication.
Dr. Rediske is a Professor of Water Resources at the Annis Water Resources Institute and a faculty member in the MS Biology program at Grand Valley State University. He has 15 years’ experience in environmental consulting and 25 years in academic research studying contaminant fate and transport. Dr. Rediske was a Planning Commissioner for Allendale Township for 15 years and served as Chair for 8 years. In addition, he was a member of both the Muskegon Lake and White Lake Public Advisory Councils and served as Chair of the Muskegon Lake PAC for 2 years. Dr. Rediske was part of the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation (CCRR) and has been involved with assessing contaminate releases from the Wolverine Worldwide Tannery and related properties since 2012. These sites pose a serious environmental and human health hazard to both the Rockford area and the Rogue River watershed and he is committed to use his background and experience to help resolve the contamination issues and restore the sites.
I am a 25 year Belmont resident and I represent the Packer/Packer Woods neighborhood residents. My wife Kim and I have raised two college-age children in the Rockford Public School system. Our family and neighbors are involved in numerous outdoor activities and possess a deep love of nature. Our highest concern is that of fairness, and we are working to see that those responsible for the contamination of our watershed are held to account and that every effort is made to correct this very serious problem. I have both a technical and business background with degrees from Ferris State University in Automotive Service Technology (1995) and Business Administration (2015).
Dr. Michael Shibler has been the superintendent of Rockford Public Schools since 1989. He is active in several community and professional organizations, is known for his advocacy of public education, and is recognized for his efforts to work collaboratively with legislators. Dr. Shibler is often sought out by the media on a range of topics impacting schools. Dr. Shibler looks forward to working with the CAG and state and federal organizations to identify priorities and make recommendations to ensure safe water in the Rockford community. Dr. Shibler and his wife Connie live and raised their family in Belmont.
Rick Solle is currently the Director of Public Services for Plainfield Township. Part of his duties include managing the Plainfield Township water system, which serves the area south and west of the City of Rockford. Rick has lived in the Rockford area for about 15 years and is interested in being a part of the solution to the contamination issues in the area.
Sandy is a Master’s Level Psychologist and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst that lives in Belmont Michigan. She has a small private practice that works with adults with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Servant Center, a non-profit organization in Grand Rapids Michigan that works with individuals who are homeless and have chronic mental illness. She volunteers at the American Red Cross as a Disaster Mental Health Worker. Sandy and her husband, Joel moved into their Belmont home in 1992, in what they thought was the perfect location. They did not know that the Christmas tree farm directly across the street was actually a dump site which Wolverine World Wide had previously used to dispose their tannery waste. In 2017, Sandy learned that the well water has been contaminated with PFAS and related compounds. She would like to work with the community members to find a viable solution to this issue.

Membership

  • 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 info@wolverinecag.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.