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.