Wolverine Worldwide has announced significant next steps in its already extensive efforts to ensure long-term water quality for the Rockford, MI, community and continue environmental remediation in and around its hometown. These steps include providing $69.5 million toward the extension of municipal water to more than 1,000 properties in Plainfield and Algoma Townships, and are reflected in a tentative agreement reached by Wolverine Worldwide, Michigan and Plainfield and Algoma Townships.
When Scotchgard PFAS chemicals were discovered in area groundwater in 2017, Wolverine acted quickly and voluntarily to ensure all affected residents had access to safe and reliable drinking water by sampling wells, providing bottled water and installing more than 700 proven filters in residents’ homes. Wolverine also worked closely with regulators to conduct comprehensive environmental investigations at its House Street and former Tannery properties – including drilling dozens of monitoring wells and collecting hundreds of soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water samples.
“Wolverine Worldwide has been part of this community for almost 140 years and we are committed to being part of water quality solutions for our friends, families and neighbors in the years to come,” states Blake W. Krueger, CEO of Wolverine Worldwide. “That’s why we took fast, proactive steps from the very beginning, and that’s also why we are taking the additional steps being announced today to fund the extension of municipal water to more than 1,000 properties and continue our environmental remediation efforts.”
Wolverine’s actions represent a comprehensive approach to addressing PFAS that is the first of its kind in Michigan and sets a high standard for the country. These actions and approach have been agreed to by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), formerly known as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). In addition to the extension of Plainfield Township’s municipal water system to more than 1,000 properties in Algoma and Plainfield Townships it will include all hookup and connection fees that homeowners typically pay on their own. Wolverine’s financial contribution will also be used to help fund the township’s planned construction of a permanent PFAS filtration system and a new municipal well field. The project will begin in 2020 and is expected to take at least five years to complete.
In addition to funding an extension of municipal water, the agreement provides that Wolverine will continue to maintain the filters it has installed for certain homeowners not receiving municipal water. Wolverine will also continue the cleanup and remediation efforts it began earlier this fall around its former tannery and House Street sites in cooperation with the EPA, and will complete the installation of a filtration system to capture and treat groundwater at the tannery site for PFAS before it reaches the Rogue River.
The tentative agreement between Wolverine, Michigan, Plainfield Township and Algoma Township is now being finalized and plan to be completed by the end of this year. This decree must then be approved by U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff, which will resolve the pending litigation between Wolverine, Michigan and the two townships.
Wolverine continues to vigorously defend itself against litigation filed by some area residents. These plaintiffs and their attorneys played no role in developing the municipal water solution or other actions announced today, but they will benefit from them. As a result, Wolverine believes its actions will have a significant impact on, and potentially lead to the resolution of, these lawsuits.
Wolverine’s litigation against 3M, the manufacturer of Scotchgard, is ongoing and the parties continue to engage in mediation discussions. Also, Wolverine is vigorously pursuing recoveries in court from its insurers, who played no role in the actions announced today and have yet to honor the policies they issued to Wolverine.
Blake Krueger, CEO, Wolverine Worldwide