Belmont/Rockford Project Timeline 2018-2023+

The formation of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group (CAG) in the summer of 2019 stimulated notable accomplishments in the cleanup efforts of the contaminated sites in the Rockford, MI area. This timeline highlights some of those accomplishments through the combined efforts and oversight of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), including:

  • Installation of impermeable caps over the hazardous spill site on House Street – Feb. 2020
  • Restoration and replanting along the Rogue riverbank and White Pine Trail – Oct. 2020
  • Design of an interceptor system at the tannery site – Feb. 19, 2021
  • Feasibility study of potential remediation options for House Street site – Feb. 2021
  • MiPEHS (Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study) – began Dec. 2020 and continues through 2024

There is still a lot of work to be done, but it is important to acknowledge the value of the work that has already been completed. Concerned citizens certainly can make a difference.

WMEAC_CAGTimeline_V1_Apr21

3/18 Meeting Recording and EGLE Public Comment on House Street

If you missed last week’s public meeting on the House Street Dump Site Feasibility Study, you can view the recording here.
Public comments will be taken through April 17, 2021. These can be emailed to
EGLE-RRD-Housestreet@michigan.gov, or mailed prior to April 17, 2021 to:
Karen Vorce
Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
Remediation and Redevelopment Division
350 Ottawa Avenue, NW, Unit 10
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2341

PFAS, PFOS, PFOA chemicals, drinking water, and the Wolverine CAG

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Linda Goossen

I am writing this blog as a member of the Wolverine CAG. My husband and I moved to downtown Rockford back in 1975; we raised our four children here and still reside in the same house we moved into 46 years ago. I have a Ph.D. in Science Studies from WMU and am a retired Professor of Medical Laboratory Science from GVSU. Up until 2000 – for 25 years – our drinking water source was the Rogue River. Thus, the PFAS contamination in the Rogue River is of vital concern to me and has motivated me to join the Wolverine CAG.

In 2017, I learned that Rockford and North Kent County residents were exposed to PFAS* in a multitude of ways: in their drinking water, by eating fish from contaminated water, by working in facilities that used PFAS, in addition to the multitude of ways the general population is exposed to PFAS. Evidence shows that these PFAS are absorbed and can accumulate in the body and stay in the body for a long period of time. Studies have shown that PFOA and PFOS are related to increased cholesterol levels. There are also limited findings that the PFAS are related to low infant birth weights, deleterious effects on the immune system, cancer (PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (PFOS).

In the light of such serious findings, I believe that the function of the Wolverine CAG is for education and advocacy. As a health-care professional, I believe that both education and advocacy are necessary for the health of the community, whether it be your professional community or your residential community. People need to know what the science-based facts are about an issue. They also must have the ability and courage to advocate – that is, to convey their message and recommend a particular cause or policy to people or groups that can further their cause. For example, the Wolverine CAG works very closely with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The wide distribution of PFAS in Rockford and North Kent County has taken its toll on many households, and there are additional households that may be affected. It is incumbent upon the CAG to research the further pollution of soil and drinking water and to inform the citizens of these areas. It is also necessary that the CAG continue to work with governmental agencies to enforce actions when PFAS levels are higher than the maximum amount allowed in drinking water (MCL). Last year members of the CAG and others were successful in advocating for lowering the Michigan MCLs.

The work of the Wolverine CAG is not finished. It is very likely that more sites of contamination will be found. Private drinking water wells remain at risk and residents have a right to know about the risk of PFAS contamination of their wells and thus their drinking water. Without the efforts of the citizen-members of the CAG, educating residents and advocating for safe drinking water, progress would be much slower – if at all.

*PFAS are Per- and polyflouroalkyl substances that are man-made and used in industrial and commercial processes, particularly in products that are stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas). The PFAS that are most studied are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesullfonic acid (PFOS).

 

 

Reflection and Reassurance

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Carol Butts

I want to send my prayers out to everyone that they stay safe and healthy. One of the toughest things in 2020 is dealing with a pandemic while also trying to weather the waters of the long term PFAS health and environmental crisis. Being a part of the community action group (CAG) is a nice way to promote environmentally friendly goals to rejuvenate development for healthier living. Like many others, I have had to refocus and contend with immediate issues hitting us all, everywhere imaginable.  Both PFAS and the COVID-19 virus pandemic affect each of us differently in many ways and unpredictably. Current attentions must turn to meet immediate needs as we face serious threats to our children’s futures, their education, their livelihoods, our work lives, financial stability, personal health, and family health. For many, loss of social structures that normally bring a sense of security, strength, and community are vastly interrupted. What is comforting to know is that together we will weather this storm and once this short-term fight is over, we will still be here, as a PFAS CAG, with the common goal to support our community welfare for this and future generations.

All the best,

Carol Butts, MPH

MiPEHS, a Study of PFAS Effects on Health, Gets Underway

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

by Tammy Bergstrom

The Wolverine Community Advisory Group (CAG) continues to meet monthly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Meetings (via Zoom) are open to the public and include updates on various activities stemming from the PFAS contamination in Rockford and Belmont.

At a recent meeting, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services toxicologist Joost van ‘t Erve provided an overview of the upcoming Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS), which is now underway.

“The study is designed to look at health effects related to PFAS and includes testing to see if there’s a relationship between blood levels of PFAS and certain diseases,” said van ‘t Erve.

The study will be ongoing through 2026. Participants will complete an online health survey and provide blood samples three times over the course of the study. Van ‘t Erve noted that the study is voluntary and participants can join at any time throughout the study.

Van ‘t Erve stated that  roughly 1,800 households from the northern Kent County area, whose water was previously sampled by or at the direction of a state agency, will be directly contacted to participate; letters are now being mailed to eligible households. The research team will continue to recruit participants until the optimal number of people is reached.

In order to be eligible for the study, residents must have had their wells previously tested by a state agency for PFAS and have used that water within the last 15 years. Their well is not required to have contained a detectable level of PFAS in order for the resident to be eligible for the study, but rather, their well just needs to have been tested for PFAS prior.

“You need to have lived there and used the water after 2005,” van ‘t Erve explained.

MiPEHS will also include residents in the Parchment and Cooper Township area in southwest Michigan. Although residents of the City of Rockford, and other areas with municipal water, are not eligible to be part of MiPEHS, van ‘t Erve noted the possibility of a future study of newborn blood spots from people born since 1987. These samples would be related to the level of PFAS in the mother’s blood at the time of birth. MiPEHS is laying the groundwork research for using these sample in the future to address public health questions. Study participants will be asked to provide access to their newborn bloodspot as part of enrolling in MiPEHS.

More information about the Wolverine CAG including upcoming meetings can be found at https://wolverinecag.org/ and blog posts from other members can be found here.

More information about the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS) can be found at the new website launched by the MDHHS.

Summer of 2020

Wolverine CAG Member Blog Post

The opinions expressed in the following blog post belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wolverine Community Advisory Group.

Tree removal and water line installation along Chandler Drive
Water line connection to our home

by Jennifer Carney

2020. The year that has brought a lot of unexpected and unpleasant things for most of us. For me, one of those things was being connected to our local municipal water source. When we bought our home in Belmont 10 years ago, one of the main selling points for us was the fact that we would have all-natural, no cost, well water. The home we moved from was in downtown Rockford. We had just had an increase on our city water bill due to the Wolverine World Wide Tannery being removed. The explanation we received went something like, ”We are raising the cost of water service for residents to make up for the loss in contribution from the tannery.” I didn’t know how water systems worked. All I knew was that my water bill grew a great deal.

After being in my Belmont home for 7 years, I was told by a law firm that there was a highly contaminated dump site located near my home and my well water was likely contaminated. I’d seen the Erin Brockovich movie, and that was the extent of my understanding of water contamination. Never did I imagine something like that would happen here, or to me. Getting our water test results was bittersweet news. On one hand, I was obviously devastated that my contamination was high, and on the other hand I now knew the reason for all my unexplained health issues; Drinking poison affects everyone differently, but the consensus is it doesn’t do a body good.

After years of legal battling back and forth, Wolverine World Wide is liable to fund the connection of municipal water to homes they’ve negatively impacted due to their past actions. Construction for my street started in April of 2020. Like many, I was assigned to work from home due to COVID-19. What timing. I was able to witness the progress of tree and road removal, limited (or no) access in and out of my driveway, ditch digging, utility outages (many utility outages), water line laying, missed deliveries and trash pickups, dangerous surprises while driving down the road, holes in my yard, well removal, spotty road repaving, etc.

While it’s great that I now don’t have to worry about my well going out (because I wouldn’t be allowed to get a new one), and there will be no more testing and filter issues, I’ll now unfortunately have a water bill again and a bill for continued bottled water service. You may wonder why we would continue with bottled water since we have municipal water now.  Well, it’s hard to know exactly how you’d handle a situation until you’re in it. For us, it was being so blindsided by this entire situation at the hands of those previously in charge at DEQ, those at Wolverine World Wide and those at Plainfield Township who were aware of the toxic site. Yet they allowed me, my family, friends, and neighbors to ingest these chemicals; I simply don’t have much trust left.

I’ve learned so much the past 3 ½ years, a lot of which I honestly wish I was still naïve to. Learning about regulatory and legislative processes took a toll on me. I feel that business is not more important than public health, However business seems to rule, and our health ends up paying the price. We need to do better. There can be a balance. There is no reason that a business should cause their community and consumers pain and change their lives forever.

I urge everyone to take it upon themselves to learn what they can about the environment around them and speak up to make change to better our community. There is no doubt there are many areas in the country in the same situation that we are, and unfortunately, most are not yet realized. I will never forget sitting in a Senate hearing and listening to the Kentucky senator, after hearing about Michigan, say, “I’m glad we don’t have a PFAS issue in Kentucky”. That sticks with me because Kentucky wasn’t testing for PFAS. No testing would obviously lead to no problem detected. Again, we can do better.

I’m glad to finish this chapter; however, this isn’t the end of the story.

PFAS Water Testing

EGLE has created two videos to guide you in collecting samples for PFAS water analysis and filling out the PFAS Water Analysis Form. Both videos are for residential sampling and are also available on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s State Drinking Water Lab web page, here.

If you have questions regarding this process please contact the Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278.