Michigan DEQ employee says he voiced chemical concerns years ago

Posted at 5:32 PM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 17:33:18-04

BELMONT, Mich. -- As the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality expands the testing area for water contamination from former Wolverine Worldwide dumping sites, an agency employee says he raised concerns about this kind of contamination years ago.

Environmental specialist Robert Delaney, a 33-year employee of the DEQ, says various types of facilities across the state depend on certain toxic chemicals that end up in our groundwater.  He says he took his concerns about this up the chain of command at the DEQ.

Delaney shared his story on a Lansing radio show Wednesday morning over growing concerns about toxic chemicals like Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFCs or PFAS) in the environment, specifically ground water. They are concerns he says he took to Dan Wyant, the head of the DEQ,  in 2012, encouraging him to have outside specialists investigate potential contamination across the state.

"You sample any water in Michigan just about, you're going to find it," Delaney said.

Delaney says the DEQ did nothing with his report.

He says that there's a dependence on various toxic chemicals at some facilities and organizations that can lead to unintended consequences.

"They're unique in that the bonds are really strong, and these chemicals won't break down at all," Delaney said. "Well, you put them here on the ground, they aren't going to break down either.  There aren't these extreme environments here on the Earth, so they were made to just withstand anything."

Delaney says he knows of up to 30 potential sites in Michigan, many growing in risk over time.

"In the 50s, when Wolverine started using this stuff, nobody had any idea that was dangerous, and we were just throwing everything out the back door," he says.

"At the volumes that we created and the chemicals that we were using, it didn't go away," he added. "And so Wolverine was just doing what everybody did. So Wolverine, they're just like everybody else, all the other industries.  And it just so happens they used this particular, really nasty chemical."

The DEQ said it expanded the testing area in Belmont to include roughly 300 more homes. Wolverine Worldwide stated anyone who lives in the expanded testing area can call 616-258-7234 to request water testing. The company also said they're passing out bottled water to these homes.