Meet the CAG

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.

Make Your Comments on the Wolverine Cleanup Community Involvement Plan

EPA Draft 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

Information kiosk and hand-wash station

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.

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.