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MDEQ looking into drinking water contamination near former dump site

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Laura Nawrocik
Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Chemicals used in the leather tanning process are showing up in some West Michigan wells.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is investigating whether a shoe manufacturer is responsible for water contamination in West Michigan.

In the 1960s, Wolverine Worldwide used a licensed dump site near Rockford to get rid of waste from its leather tanning process. Two chemicals used in the process, PFOS and PFOA, are now showing up in nearby residential wells.

David O'Donnell, remediation division supervisor at the MDEQ office in Grand Rapids, says so far, the state has test results from 21 wells.

Of those, he says seven have tested above the Environmental Protection Agency's advisory levelof 70 parts per trillion, while the rest either tested below or were non-detected. The state is waiting on another round of test results, which are expected back sometime in the next couple of weeks.

"One [well] that's detected could be right next to one that's non-detected, so that makes it difficult to draw any conclusions with respect to how widespread the contamination is at this point," O’Donnell said.

Due to the geography of the area and the difficult nature of the chemicals involved, O'Donnell says, the investigation and subsequent clean-up will likely take “quite some time."

In the meantime, Wolverine Worldwide has offered bottled water and filters to households that are being tested for contamination.

The company says it plans to start its own on-site investigation next week.

Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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