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In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances.PFAS is a family of chemicals that can be found in all sorts of products. But what are the lingering effects of PFAS on our health and the environment?

State, townships, Wolverine Worldwide say they've reached tentative agreement on PFAS contamination

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Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

Wolverine Worldwide says it will pay nearly $70 million to build municipal water systems in two communities affected by PFAS contamination. 

The company used the chemicals to waterproof its shoes for years. The harmful chemicals contaminated the ground and entered into local wells. 
The company says it will now pay to build the water systems to connect more than 1,000 properties to municipal water in Algoma and Plainfield Townships. It says the plan is part of a tentative agreement to resolve lawsuits involving the state and townships.Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office announced the tentative agreement on Tuesday. In a press release, the AG's office explained:


The agreement is the result of a lawsuit filed against Wolverine Worldwide in January 2018 by EGLE (then called MDEQ) and later joined by Plainfield and Algoma Townships. The State and Townships sued for relief following the discovery of PFAS contamination in North Kent County residential drinking water wells from Wolverine’s use and disposal of PFAS-containing materials in its historic operations. The terms of the tentative deal were reached after the parties participated in mediation in September; the parties are working to incorporate the terms into a binding agreement in the near future. Under the terms of the agreement, Wolverine will pay $69.5 million for extension of municipal water to more than 1,000 properties. The agreement will also outline Wolverine’s ongoing responsibilities – under State oversight – for addressing the presence of PFAS in area groundwater.

Some residents are optimistic about the water system extension, but still want to know more. 

Kimberly Conner lives in Cedar Springs, just north of Rockford. Conner says the agreement is a step in the right direction. 

"Going forward, what steps will be put in place to make sure that water is safe?" Conner asked. 

Cody Angell, co-founder of the citizens group Michigan Demands Action Against Contamination, also thinks this is a good step, but just a first step. 

"I think it’s a first step in a very long process of remediation that Wolverine needs to be responsible for," Angell said.

Wolverine says it will continue efforts to, “ensure long-term water quality for the community and continue environmental remediation in and around its hometown.”

This post has been updated to include reaction from residents living in and near the affected communities.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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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