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Wolverine lawsuit alleges 3M is partially responsible for Kent County's PFAS issues

Leather straps
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
There are still leather straps on the bank of the Rogue River in downtown Rockford next to where Wolverine once had a tannery.

A West Michigan shoe manufacturer thinks they aren't the only ones to blame for PFAS polluted groundwater. 

Wolverine Worldwide has been at the middle of the groundwater contamination in northern Kent County since the state began warning residents about high levels of PFAS being found in their private wells. 

Wolverine is widely believed to be the source of the contamination, and it is alleged as such in a lawsuit the state filed earlier this year. But Wolverine doesn't believe it is the only responsible party in the pollution. 

Wolverine filed a lawsuit against 3M, a company that manufactured products containing PFAS chemicals and sold them to "thousands" of companies for decades, according to Wolverine spokesman Bill Nowling. 

"3M manufactured this, they marketed it, they need to be at the table to figure out what to do with it now," Nowling said. 

The lawsuit alleges that 3M could have helped prevent the PFAS issues that are ongoing in Kent County.

"Our allegation is that they withheld information and suppressed research that ... what are the exact effects of these chemical compounds for decades," Nowling said. 

A spokesperson from 3M says the company denies all of the allegations. 

"We disagree with the allegations in this lawsuit. 3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its environmental stewardship," the company said in a statement. 

Wolverine has recently come under fire for delaying a municipal water extension from Plainfield Township to some surrounding areas. The extension would give PFAS-free water to residents living on private wells.

But the company says it will continue to give whole-house filters to homes in the area who need it -- or homes that test above 70 parts per trillion in two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA. 

Wolverine doesn't expect that its lawsuit against 3M will impact its ongoing lawsuit from the state of Michigan.

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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