Anticipated agency filings will formalize processes for sampling, testing and immediate water solutions
Wolverine Worldwide expressed its continued commitment to working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in anticipation of actions by both agencies to formalize processes for sampling, testing and immediate water solutions.
Over the past year, Wolverine has worked with MDEQ on sampling and testing processes related to the presence of PFOA and PFOS in area groundwater. MDEQ has been clear in its requirements and expectations of Wolverine, and the Company has been voluntarily meeting these requirements every step of the way, including providing water and effective filtration systems to all homes in the House Street, Jewell, and Wolven Study Areas with any detection of PFOA or PFOS. The anticipated actions by the MDEQ and EPA will formalize these requirements and provide structure for the work and plans already in progress. Neither of these actions diminishes Wolverine’s commitment to continue working proactively with these agencies and the community.
Wolverine also expects the EPA to issue an order formalizing continued investigation of the Tannery and House Street sites for non-PFAS compounds. Since 2011, Wolverine has been working in close cooperation with the MDEQ to investigate and address potential legacy issues related to the Tannery. As part of this work, Wolverine extensively tested, with MDEQ oversight, the soil, groundwater, sediment and surface waters related to the Tannery for a broad range of compounds associated with Tannery operations and the pre-Tannery operations at the site. Since 2012, the EPA has received and reviewed the results of Wolverine’s investigation work with the MDEQ. Wolverine remains in discussions with the EPA regarding the Tannery and House Street sites, and will collaborate with the EPA on any possible next steps.
“We have been working collaboratively with the MDEQ and EPA to address their concerns and implement solutions to give the community confidence in its water. The anticipated actions by the MDEQ and EPA stem from efforts already underway and formalize the work and testing already being done by Wolverine,” said Chris Hufnagel, Wolverine’s senior vice president and head of strategy. “This is our hometown and these are our friends, families and neighbors. We are committed to doing the right thing and seeing this through to the end.”
PFOA and PFOS are substances that were used for many decades in commercial products like firefighting foams and metal plating, and in common consumer items like food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, Teflon®, carpets, and 3M’s Scotchgard™, a substance used in the Company’s legacy Tannery operations. Due to their widespread use over such a long period of time, PFOA and PFOS can be found virtually everywhere and in everyone.
Despite decades of study and millions of dollars of research, human health effects from PFOA and PFOS are unknown. Although no human studies have proven that exposure by an individual PFOA or PFOS cause any illness, in 2016 the EPA issued a drinking water “advisory” at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined. Despite the science, Wolverine has taken a very proactive approach to address the community’s concerns regarding PFOA and PFOS, and some of the actions taken include:
• Wolverine has been working closely and collaboratively with the EPA, MDEQ, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Kent County Health Department, Plainfield Township, and the state’s recently formed Michigan PFAS Action Response Team.
• The Company has hired a leading environmental consulting firm to conduct testing for PFOA and PFOS for more than 1,000 homes in the community and has paid for all of these tests.
• Wolverine has supplied bottled water to residents in testing areas while they have waited for test results for their wells.
• Wolverine has paid for the installation of more than 400 custom, whole house filtration systems for individual residents with any detection of PFOA or PFOS, and is prepared to install more as additional data is collected. These actions have provided time for thoughtful and thorough consideration of solutions that will include all appropriate parties.
• A team has been assembled within Wolverine to deal with this evolving situation on a daily basis. Executives from this team have attended two community town hall events and have answered every question from the community. The team has responded to over 2,000 calls and emails from residents and community members.
• The Company launched a blog – WeAreWolverine.com – to provide the community with updates and factual information on a regular basis.
Wolverine encourages members of the community with questions or comments to contact the Company directly at (616) 866-5627 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the blog at www.WeAreWolverine.com.