by BETH ALTENA One year after beginning an investigation into the potential leak of contaminants on the Wolverine Worldwide (WWW) former tannery site and surrounding areas, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has returned authority to local agencies while reserving the ability to resume control if necessary. The EPA was petitioned June 2011 by three Rockford residents, Lynn McIntosh, Grant Medich and Gail Mancewicz. In a June 27 letter to Wolverine attorney Michael Robinson, the EPA states that the federal Preliminary Assessment requested by citizens on June 21 has been completed. The letter states that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) the EPA has one year to conduct a study unless it determines that such assessment is not appropriate. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and EPA’s Superfund Removal Program participated in the assessment and found: “Elevated levels of several inorganic contaminants have been detected in the surface and subsurface soils in portions of the Site. Chromium, arsenic and mercury have been detected in sediment samples. Arsenic and chromium have also been detected in groundwater. It is likely that contaminated groundwater discharges to the Rogue River. However, the EPA has concluded that a CERCLA removal response action is not warranted at this time, since the concentration and quantity of known contaminants does not present an immediate and substantial threat of release.” The letter continues, noting that the site scored above 28.50 in the EPA’s Hazardous Ranking System and merits further investigation. On June 14 a letter from the MDEQ recommends further investigation under “Other Cleanup Authority.” “The EPA has concluded that such a referral is appropriate for the Site. MDEQ has based its request for referral upon receiving your [Wolverine’s] letter (date June 11, 2012) in which Wolverine Worldwide Inc. commits to working with the MEDQ.” With this decision in hand, WWW will develop an assessment plan to continue the evaluation of the property. The plan will be reviewed and approved by the MDEQ, and WWW will decide what further steps need to be taken, if any, based on the plan. In a letter dated June 14 from the EPA’s Nuria Muniz to the MDEQ, Muniz states that the property in question was operated as a tannery from 1908 to […]
Environmental Protection Agency
Contaminants found in multiple test sites on Wolverine property by BETH ALTENA About a hundred residents, including city officials and Wolverine Worldwide representatives, attended a public meeting held jointly by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on Tuesday, April 24 at the Rockford Freshman Center. A presentation by a team of four representatives of the environmental agencies detailed the background of their investigation, where the testing stands to date, what possible future outcomes of the process may be, and answered questions well after the 9 p.m. expected close of the meeting. Comments from the public regarding the situation were about evenly mixed among those supporting Wolverine in their actions in removing the former tannery and those who appeared skeptical of the company’s actions or worried about contamination. Dave Novak, community involvement coordinator of the Superfund Division of the EPA, began the evening’s presentation, introducing the other representatives. “We are looking for conclusions based on good science, not speculation,” he stated. “We have a great deal of information in a relatively short period of time. We are letting good science lead us on our journey.” He then gave the floor to Naria Nunez of the EPA. Nunez said the EPA was contacted by a citizens’ petition June 21, 2011 describing concerns over releases during the demolition of the former tannery at 123 N. Main Street, Rockford. She said the petition indicated the demolition was of community concern and included photographs of discolored water running off the property and questions about the past use of chromium at the property. The EPA decided to investigate the site, and began testing in October of last year. Nunez said preliminary testing results found some contamination with potential of offsite contact. The investigation is still underway and is in the preliminary stages. At any time the EPA could decide no further response is necessary; could call for removal of contaminates or could refer the investigation to another government program. The EPA could also continue to investigate and at the end of the process could rank the site based on a system called a Hazardous Ranking System. This is an evaluation of the property based on evaluations of groundwater, surface water, air, ground, or […]
Meeting is Tuesday, April 24 at Rockford Freshman Center Those who have had concerns over the environmental safety of the former Wolverine tannery site will have the chance to hear about the results of testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On Tuesday, April 24, the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) officials will meet with the public from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rockford Freshman Center cafeteria, 4500 Kroes Street, Rockford. According to Dave Novak, EPA community involvement coordinator, the public meeting is to discuss and update the community on work and assessments being done at the former Wolverine tannery site in downtown Rockford. The tannery was demolished in 2010 and the site is adjacent to the Rogue River and Rum Creek. The EPA and MDEQ received a petition to investigate the site as the result of community concerns regarding potential environmental impacts on the two bodies of water. During the meeting, the EPA and MDEQ will discuss the purpose of the assessment, the roles of both the state and federal agencies, and what the results of the assessment will determine and how the results will be used. The EPA, MDEQ and Wolverine will give presentations on their activities to date. There will also be an opportunity for questions and discussion during the meeting.
by KIM SAPKOWSKI Rogue River Watershed Council One of Michigan’s greatest resources is its abundance and high quality of water. Wetlands play a key role in this vital natural resource. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. Wetlands control flooding by absorbing rain and snow melt, (thus they have earned the nickname “nature’s kidneys”), they filter and control fluctuating levels of ground water, they filter sediment and pollution from stormwater run off and they provide recreational opportunities for fishing and hunting. Wetlands are also key habitat to fish, insects, amphibians and birds, like the bald eagle and American bittern. Many animals like the gray wolf, white tailed deer and otters rely on wetlands for food and a place to rest. Many plants that are unique to wetlands are essential for habitat survival. Governor Granholm has urged the State legislature to hand over regulation of Michigan’s wetlands to the EPA in order to cut spending on what she terms as “duplication of services.” Others want to do away with Michigan’s wetlands permitting process in order to remove roadblocks for business expansion. On the surface this seems like a good idea. Why have a state program in place that does exactly what the EPA already does? On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the EPA wetlands regulations are not the same as Michigan’s. Here’s why: Currently, Michigan law regulates the permitting of wetlands that are five acres or more and/or are contiguous to a body of water. That body of water could be a lake, a stream or a seasonal stream. The EPA, however, only permits wetlands that are adjacent to navigable waters. That leaves thousands of acres of “stand alone” wetlands, those that are not adjacent to navigable water, unprotected. Anyone could fill in and dig up wetlands without a permit. So, what’s the big deal? It’s their property so who cares? Well, the big deal is that by filling in a wetland, we are shutting down a crucial part of nature’s function. When we fill wetlands, we jeopardize our health and economic well being. Loss of wetlands means poor water quality, flooding and the property damage that goes along with it. Loss of wetlands means […]