Kent County, Michigan, approves legal strategy over PFAS contamination

Kent County, Michigan, will pursue legal strategy against Wolverine Worldwide, a Rockford, Michigan-based footwear manufacturing company, because of PFAS contamination discovered at a landfill that is believed to be connected to the company.

The discovery of the contamination means a new filtration station is required that will cost millions of dollars to build, and $500,000 per year to operate, County Commissioner and Public Works board member Phil Skaggs said.

At a Board of Public Works meeting on Aug. 6, MLive reports Skaggs put forward a motion to pursue a legal strategy, including potential litigation, against Wolverine to recover past and projected future costs of addressing PFAS-contaminated tannery waste dumped by the company at the North Kent Landfill in the 1980s.

The motion passed 7-0, Skaggs said, and the board will begin moving forward with the effort.

According to Skaggs, there is documentary evidence from the city’s Department of Public Works that tannery sludge including PFAS sludge was dumped at the landfill. The contention of some is that PFAS could have come from other sources, such as farm fields where PFAS materials were deposited.

Because of the demonstrated adverse health effects of PFAS, once the contaminants were found in test wells, the Board of Public Works and its director and staff worked to support the nearby residents, supplying bottled water systems and whole-house filtration systems.

“Now, we are building a filtration station to filter out all PFAS from the leachate before discharging it to the North Kent Sewer System,” Skaggs said. “The station will cost over $3 million to build ... and the spending has been approved.”

He adds, “We believe this contamination can be traced directly to the tons of tannery sludge Wolverine dumped at the landfill and are seeking to recover past and future costs of PFAS mitigation from the company.”