Wolverine Worldwide continues contamination cleanup

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Wolverine Worldwide has been conducting remediation work at the site of its former tannery in Rockford, 123 N. Main St., since October. Photo by Michael Buck

Since October, Wolverine Worldwide has been conducting remediation work at the site of its former tannery in Rockford, and the maker of apparel and footwear is now in the process of isolating the waste at the former House Street disposal site to prevent it from spreading in the groundwater.

The cleanup at the tannery site, at 123 N. Main St. in Rockford, includes “excavation of several areas of sediments, soils, leather scraps and hides from the former tannery, the adjacent White Pine Trail and the banks of the Rogue River,” according to Wolverine in a Dec. 20 post at its blog, WeAreWolverine.com.

The Business Journal’s previous report on the background and extent of the pollution at the tannery and Wolverine’s EPA-ordered remediation can be found at bit.ly/tannerysitereportgrbj.

“As of (the week leading up to Christmas), we have excavated 10,600 tons of material from the site, sending 419 truckloads to an approved off-site landfill,” Wolverine said in the post. “The excavation work is currently anticipated to be completed in early March.”

Wolverine is maintaining a full timeline and progress schedule for the tannery cleanup at bit.ly/tannerycleanupprogress.

On Dec. 9, Wolverine also began installing five engineered, impermeable caps at Wolverine’s House Street Disposal Area at 1855 House St. NE and surrounding properties in Belmont/Plainfield Township. The caps are barriers designed to isolate five areas of waste materials on the property and prevent them from migrating into the underlying groundwater.

The EPA approved the work plan for the caps, and installation is expected to be completed by Jan. 10.

“This short-term cleanup, or time-critical removal action, is the result of a settlement agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wolverine,” according to a statement from the EPA. “This removal action is not a final remedy for the site, but it’s a very important step toward stabilizing the site and addressing the threat it poses to human health and the environment.”

The plans for the House Street cleanup and further investigations, according to a Nov. 25 press release from the EPA, include the following:

  • Excavating and disposing of soils contaminated with metals with concentrations that exceed leaching criteria or managing them on-site in accordance with federal or state requirements.

  • Conducting additional investigations at a property west of the House Street Disposal Area and at an adjacent wetland to determine whether contamination is present in these areas.

Hazardous waste generated from the cleanup will be disposed of off-site at a facility authorized to receive the contaminated material, according to the EPA.

To keep residents and citizens informed, a community advisory group formed following the discovery of the Wolverine Worldwide contamination.

The group — which consists of residents of the House Street Disposal Area, Wolven/Jewell Source Area and tannery site; government officials in the area; nonprofit groups; and others — serves as a liaison between government regulators and the public to share updates and provide input, comments and questions regarding the historic contamination issues and ongoing cleanup efforts.

According to the CAG, Wolverine has been asked but declined to take a seat on the advisory group; however, Wolverine said in a statement to the Business Journal that representatives from Wolverine have attended most of the CAG meetings, most often Dave Latchana, Wolverine’s associate general counsel.

CAG meetings occur on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. The CAG meeting schedule for 2020 will be solidified at its next meeting on Jan. 16 at 6161 Belmont Ave NE.

More information on the CAG can be found at wolverinecag.org.

Concerned residents of contaminated areas can contact the Michigan Environmental Assistance Center at (800) 662-9278 or deq-assist@michigan.gov.

Those with questions about exposure to PFAS in drinking water are asked to contact the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Toxicology Hotline at (800) 648-6942.

For information from the Kent County Health Department about health effects of PFAS, citizens are asked to call (616) 632-7100 or email kcpfas@kentcountymi.gov.

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