Wolverine Worldwide submits PFAS remediation plan for House Street property

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This “phyto-cap” plan addresses the remediation objectives outlined in the consent decree and has the added benefit of preserving a 76-acre green space in the middle of a rural residential area, Wolverine said. Courtesy Wolverine Worldwide

Wolverine Worldwide recently submitted a feasibility study to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy outlining a comprehensive plan to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at its House Street property.

The proposal combines multiple remediation methods while working to preserve sizable greenspace that “complements the area’s rural character,” the Rockford-based maker of footwear and apparel posted on its blog, WeAreWolverine.

The feasibility study and the remediation of the company’s House Street property is one component of its efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the area stemming from historic disposal of waste containing chemicals that were part of a previous formula for 3M’s Scotchgard product that Wolverine used to waterproof its leather shoes beginning in the late 1950s and early ’60s. PFAS have been linked to certain types of cancers and other health issues.

Other elements of Wolverine’s remediation efforts include the extension of municipal water to over 1,000 properties that currently is underway in Plainfield and Algoma Townships, remediation of its former tannery property in Rockford and other ongoing remediation efforts outlined in the consent decree agreed to between Wolverine and EGLE last year.

The remediation plan for the House Street property combines two remediation methods to remove PFAS from the ground and further reduce the impact of PFAS on groundwater, Wolverine said. The first method, phytoremediation, is a process where the roots of trees planted on the property will pull PFAS out of the ground over time. The second method, strategic capping, involves installing specially engineered membranes over the thickest areas of PFAS, preventing that PFAS from getting into the groundwater.

This “phyto-cap” plan addresses the remediation objectives outlined in the consent decree and has the added benefit of preserving a 76-acre green space in the middle of a rural residential area, Wolverine said.

“Our property would be enhanced by the planting of up to 4,000 new phytoremediation trees, and there is a possibility, either now or in the future, of creating limited use and controlled access nature trails or other recreational features,” Wolverine wrote in the blog post.

The company said its plan was informed by feedback and suggestions from neighboring residents, community groups, Plainfield Township officials, EGLE and others it consulted during the preparation of the feasibility study.

Those conversations resulted in several adjustments to the original concept, including:

  • Increasing the number of phytoremediation trees and the strategic cap size
  • Adding permanent, attractive gates at the entrances to the property to continue controlling and limiting public access
  • Adding trees in strategic locations to provide enhanced screening and privacy for neighboring residents
  • Removing a proposed parking lot
  • Removing proposed trail loops, while preserving the possibility of limited use nature trails in the future

Wolverine’s proposal now goes to EGLE for evaluation under the objectives set forth in the consent decree. If it is approved, construction could be completed in 12-18 months with minimal disruption to the surrounding area, the company said.

If EGLE does not approve the phyto-cap proposal, the final remedy identified in the consent decree is the construction of a surface cap of about 30 acres. Wolverine said this option would not remove PFAS from the ground like the phyto-cap option and would require the complete and permanent deforestation of over 30 acres of the property. In addition, construction would take about 30 months and be more disruptive to the surrounding area.

The company emphasized that addressing the remediation objectives under the consent decree will be a long-term process.

“We believe the phyto-cap plan will achieve that while also benefitting the community with a green and sustainable option for our House Street property,” Wolverine wrote in the post. “We appreciate the valuable feedback provided by community members, local officials and others as we finalized this plan.”

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