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EPA orders Wolverine Worldwide to dig up polluted river sediment near former tannery

Rogue River
Trout Unlimited
The Rogue River in West Michigan

The EPA has ordered a West Michigan shoe manufacturer to excavate part of the Rogue River.

Wolverine Worldwide used products containing chemicals, including PFAS, at its former tannery in Rockford, about 15 miles north of Grand Rapids.

The EPA has ordered the company to dig up contaminated sediment from the river and soil along the White Pine Trail in Rockford.

Wolverine released a statement, saying it will continue to work with the EPA to work on next steps at the old tannery site:

Wolverine Worldwide submitted a letter to the EPA in January 2019 proposing to take certain actions this year at its former Tannery, and since then has shared its proposals with the community on www.WeAreWolverine.com and discussed them with the EPA. The EPA’s letter last week discusses several of the Company’s proposals and also some additional proposals. Wolverine is reviewing this letter and looks forward to continuing its work with the agency to develop next steps at the former Tannery and House Street locations.

A representative from Wolverine says the EPA's letter is about contaminants other than PFAS, but did not specify which specific contaminants were the issue.

Cody Angell, Kent County resident and co-founder of the citizens' group Michigan Demands Action Against Contamination, says this is the type of action his group wants to see from federal and state officials.

“I think it’s a little too late for a lot of people, because there has already been a ton of exposure and what health consequences are we already suffering from being exposed to these chemicals?” Angell said.

Michigan Demands Action is just one of the groups in Michigan trying to get federal and state officials to act on water contaminants. Angell says the EPA’s order couldn’t have come soon enough.

“We’ve been asking the EPA for years now to involve themselves into the matter,” he said.

This post has been updated to clarify the EPA's letter to Wolverine and the company's response.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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