September 2019 CAG Meeting—Summary

Wolverine CAG Meeting
Plainfield Township Charter Hall
6161 Belmont Ave NE, Belmont, MI  49306 

Thursday, September 19, 2019
6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Members Present
A.J. Birkbeck
Jenny Carney
Lance Climie
Fletcher Johnson
Gail Mancewicz
Susan Marschall
Grant Medich
Jonathan Miner
Thomas Sapkowski
Kelly Sheeren
Michael Shibler
Cameron Van Wyngarden
Sandy Wynn-Stelt

Support
Diane Russell, USEPA
Doug Sarno, Facilitator

Agenda Items

  • Overview of Eat Safe Fish Program
  • Update of the EPA Community Involvement Plan
  • Update on House Street and Tannery Removal projects

Doug Sarno called the meeting to order at 6:03 PM.

Overview of Eat Safe Fish (ESF) Program

Laura Gossiaux, MPH, BSN, RN, of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provided this overview.

The first fish advisories in Michigan were issued in 1970s. We test chemicals related to different industries, Mercury is most tested for.

Most chemicals we test are bioaccumulative in that fish eat contaminated food and that can accumulate through the food chain. PFAS sometimes work a little differently in that we see higher concentrations in smaller fish.

The Chemicals we look for are persistent, they remain present in our environment, even those that have not been used in a long time. They bioaccumulate in our food and even in our bodies when we ingest those foods.

The ESF program uses scientific data along with health advisories to keep people informed. Most common contaminants are mercury, PCB, dioxins and now PFAS.

We are looking at areas where environmental investigations are ongoing and areas with high levels of fishing.

Eat Safe Fish is an advisory, it does not require people to follow the guidelines

We collect fish through partnerships with EGLE and DNR. They will collect the fish and we prepare and test them. We prepare it in the way most people eat them, they are frozen and stored and then tested individually for the chemicals of concern.

EGLE biologists and MDHHS toxicologists review the tests and update the ESF guide with new information based on the results.  ESF guidelines don’t get updated each year, changes to levels of contamination happen slowly over time.

The MI serving basics are customized for each person based on body weight. The serving sizes included in the guide are equivalent to 2 oz of fish for each 45 pounds of body weight.

Guidelines are customized by type of fish and water body, tables for area lakes were included in the presentation.

PFOS is most often tested for because it tends to drive the health concerns in fish.

The Ponds at 4300 Cannonsburg Road and the Belmont gravel pits were noted as Do Not Eat.

CAG:  Why is there no advice for trout?

State:  Samples have been collected and data are being evaluated.

There are more fish and more waterbodies that we have not tested and this is where we use our state-wide guidelines.

We also look at Eat Safe Wild Game and create advisories for deer. At present, one deer advisory exists in the state.

The science behind our guide and all of our materials  is available at Michigan.gov/eatsafefish.  The Division of Env Health hotline is 800-648-6942.

CAG:  Rockford Dam has not been sampled since 2013, is there more sampling scheduled?

State:  These contaminants tend to be very persistent and don’t change that quickly, also there will be sampling as part of the cleanup that we have access to. We will look at the decreasing trends once the remediation is complete.

CAG:  Do you test surface water too?

State:  That is mostly done by EGLE, we are focused on the human health risks. EGLE has done a lot of surface water sampling and we can get a presentation on that moving forward. Those ponds with do not fish advisories are pretty much the worst case scenario, it is a captive system, all of the contamination flows in but very little leaves.

CAG:  Is there signage where there is an advisory?

State:  We don’t typically have signage except at do not eat sites, the ponds are private property so we don’t always have signs there but we do in this case.

CAG:  Does EGLE have its own labs?

State:  The DHHS lab is in Lansing, EGLE also has its labs in Lansing, we both can do PFAS analysis. DHHS does fish testing and some drinking water, EGLE is specifically designed to conduct EPA drinking water method of testing. Venison and game are all done at DHHS, but nothing scheduled at this time.

CAG:  What about PFOS in plants?

State:  We are beginning to look into that, there is research happening around the world but we are not set up for that yet. There is a plan to allow citizens to bring personal water samples to the state lab, that should be announced in the next month or so.

CAG:  What is the turnaround time for sampling?

State:  A week or two, we have more local capacity now than we did int the past.

CAG:  Should there be more signs, it would be good to have more information to alert people to the fish concerns?

State:  The guidelines do change a bit so we don’t use signs as much as the brochures and on-line information.  

CAG:  Brown Trout and Brook Trout are the primary species in the Rogue River and need to be tested.

State:  We will take a note of that. Sometimes it is a function of how much of a species we can catch.

CAG: This is a great topic for a CAG recommendation.

CAG:  What is the difference between the under and over 18” fish?

State:  The concentrations in the larger fish just don’t meet the advisory levels in that case.

CAG:  Thank you for letting us know about a cost-effective way for folks to get their well water tested, we look forward to that.

Public: PFOS is detected in the water, isn’t it safe to know that the fish has been contaminated?

State:  Not necessarily, lots of contaminants in the water do not necessarily accumulate in the fish. There are a lot of variables both in the water and for the individual fish species that determine if contamination bioaccumulates in fish.

Public: I got a mailer for free water testing from a company called rain soft, what is this all about, will it test for PFOS?

CAG : Lots of folks got those, this is just advertising for water filters, probably not going to look for specific hazardous contaminants like PFOS. 

CAG:  Should we look at collecting data that individuals get for their wells? There are real privacy concerns here, but it might be worth exploring.

Cleanup Workplans

OSC Jeff Kimball was not available for this meeting or next due to scheduling conflicts but he would be willing to schedule something with a committee or group that wants to discuss this topic. 

The CAG will identify members who want to serve on a technical committee, then identify possible meeting dates to connect with Jeff.

Update on Community Involvement Plan

Diane Russell, US Environmental Protection Agency presented this information.

What is a Community Involvement Plan?

A site specific strategy to enable meaningful community involvement.

Both a document and a planning tool with actions to be taken throughout the course of site activities, a living document that changes as work moves forward. The CIP is developed based on community interviews and EPA’s community involvement handbook.

The draft CIP is posted on the EPA web site  www.epa.gov/mi/wolverine-world-wide-tannery.

EPA looking for public comments on the report and on our findings so we can be as accurate as possible. Comments will be accepted between now and October 19.

Is there a role that the CAG would like to play in implementing these activities? One of the functions of a CAG is to communicate to the larger community which could include helping to create and distribute materials, host meetings and events, and other activities.

What we heard in our Interviews?

Interviews were conducted summer and fall of 2018. Key concerns and comments were:

  • PFAS and water
  • Lots of concerns about trust in government. This is an area where the CAG can really help, in getting a wide range of folks around the table.
  • How people get their information, finding trustworthy sources of information

CAG:  it would be interesting to see how people’s attitudes and trust change over time, this would be a good thing to look at, this would be an interesting activity. 

EPA:   This was not a quantitative assessment so we would not be able to make a direct study of it, This might be another area where the CAG could play a role.

Engagement Goals 

  • Provide information to the community.
  • Achieve frequent and early opportunities for input.
  • Identify and share resources for impacted community to help achieve all goals.

Information Methods

  • EPA web site
  • CD ROM at Repository at Krause Memorial Library
  • Community Involvement Plan
  • Mailing Lists
  • Fact Sheets
  • Informational brochures
  • In the moment videos
  • News Releases
  • Real-time data sharing when possible.

Information/Input Methods

  • Tours
  • Educational partnerships
  • Public meetings
  • Participate in local community group meetings
  • Plan or participate in local events
  • CAG meetings
  • Stakeholder meetings between EPA, EGLE, and local government and organizations.

Formal Input Methods

  • Comments during formal comment periods
  • Prepare and issue a responsiveness summary.

Share Resources and Methods

  • CAG facilitation
  • Technical resources
  • Redevelopment resources.

Please email comments Diane Russell by October 19 at russell.diane@epa.gov.

CAG:  Are the workplans the type of things that will go out for public comment?

EPA:   No, they are not for comment but they are public documents. 

CAG:  Is there a copy of the shoreline plan where they are collecting the leather scraps? 

EPA:   Yes, that was one of the links shared

CAG:  Will you be publishing all the comments on the CIP? 

EPA:   No, this is an informal process, we will review all of your comments and make all appropriate changes to the CAIP, but we only do formal comments for formal remedy selection processes.

CAG:  For what types of issues do you send press releases? 

EPA:   These come out of our press office, we do a press release on public meetings, CAG meetings, big milestones and announcements. All press releases are posted at our web site.

CAG:  The CAG will also be doing local press releases moving forward.

CAG:  Can we get a more detailed map of the area that is affected? 

EPA:   We do have a little challenge of making sure we are not providing personally identifiable information, don’t want to have personal property identifiable.

Public: We just need more detail on the map so we can see what you are talking about and how we might be affected.

State:  We don’t want to create plume maps off of residential well data, we are getting a better picture from additional sampling wells now so that sort of information will be coming.

Public: Is the CAG creating a web site and Facebook page? 

CAG:  Yes, this is in the works. 

Public: The wolverine CAG sounds like you work for the company? 

CAG:  The site pretty clearly describes us, we are aware of the challenge in the name but want to make sure everyone knows our role.

Project Timelines for House Street, Tannery Property, White Pine Trail 

Brent Ritchie, EPA Technical Contractor provided an overview of upcoming work on the Tannery and House Street projects.

This information is draft, the exact work progress will be determined by the ultimate contractor hired by Wolverine to do the work. There is a lot in flux still but letting you know where we are as of right now.

House Street

Data still coming in, plan is to start installing the fencing next week.

Tannery Property, White Pine Trail 

In the final stages of a contractor selection for the cleanup work. Bid requests went out and three contractors have submitted bids. EPA has to agree with the final selection. Site prep and mobilization comes next and you will start to see equipment and preparation for excavation, they will be building some temporary roads and doing some tree removal, this up front work will take a few weeks. The individual contractors will decide where they want to begin the work based on their best approach and timing of the mobilization, probably the end of September. 

CAG:  What will happen with the trees and vegetation?

EPA:   As long as it is not contaminated, the contractor will probably decide what to do with it. I am not certain exactly how it will be managed, I will ask about this.

The specific steps will be determined in the future. Brent showed a draft timeline and some maps to currently planned activity.

CAG:  How long will the trail be closed? 

EPA:   Still waiting for the permits for this closure, request was for 9/27 but they won’t close it until they have to, probably the following week. Re-opening will depend on a number of factors. We will have to take verification samples to ensure it is clean before backfilling and paving. If asphalt plants are closed for the winter then the trail will stay closed until spring when the asphalt is available. Working on a detour process (showed a map).

CAG:  Who is going to let public businesses know about this closure? 

EPA:   This will be discussed to make sure people get notices they need.

We have a mid-December target for completing excavation of the different areas of contamination. A minimum restoration plan will be done this spring to do some planting, then a final restoration plan will also be prepared, EPA has not seen this plan yet.

CAG: The City of Rockford is going to get all the complaints on this, we really have to be much better about communication on this stuff so everyone sees the information they need. The CAG communication committee will really need to help coordinated between the CAG and the City and the EPA and Wolverine.

CAG:  At House St. they are digging up Chromium, this is not a PFAS cleanup right

EPA:   That is correct, they will only be digging a few feet, all hazardous waste will be going off site to a licensed facility.

This is really disappointing that the community has not gotten the information that they need. We must find a way to immediately notify the community. Can we get something in the paper for Monday. Get something to the Squire by Monday for the Thursday paper.

There is a lot of confusion and we need to work through that. Grant will call the City of Rockford and the Squire to understand what they are planning and that the CAG will be seeking to provide some information and a press release. 

The CAG will also send a letter to Wolverine to talk about what the community expects from them. We need to get all of this to a better place.

CAG Committee Reports

Committee reports and action was postponed until the next CAG meeting.

The Meeting Adjourned at 8:50