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Judge approves state, townships' settlement with Wolverine Worldwide, calls it "model resolution"

DEQ (now EGLE)

Federal district judge Janet Neff approved a settlement agreement between the state of Michigan, two Kent County townships, and Wolverine Worldwide. She called it "a model resolution of a very complex problem," which was completed "by all accounts, in record time for environment litigation of this nature." 

The state and Plainfield and Algoma Townships sued the West Michigan shoe company for contaminating groundwater and residential drinking water wells with chemicals in the PFAS family. The chemicals were used in its shoemaking operations.

Wolverine Worldwide will pay up to $69.5 million to connect about a thousand residents to nearby municipal water systems, and provide filters for others whose drinking water wells show levels of two chemicals in the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS, above 10 parts per trillion.

Wolverine Worldwide has also agreed to monitor the groundwater in the area, and control sources of PFAS from a disposal site and its former tannery in Kent County.

“I am pleased that the Court acted so quickly to enter the Consent Decree," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release. "This enables a push for construction to begin this spring to bring relief to residents of North Kent County most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination from Wolverine. At the public comment session I hosted in Rockford last week, residents made clear that getting work started to address the threats posed by PFAS contamination – real, tangible action – was the top priority.  This settlement does that.”

In a statement, Wolverine Worldwide said:

Wolverine has been committed from the very beginning to being part of comprehensive water quality solutions for the community, and the Consent Decree provides the right framework for that to occur. We appreciate the Court’s recognition that the Consent Decree was reached in record time, provides expedient and expansive relief, and is in the best interests of affected homeowners, the surrounding communities and the state of Michigan.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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