80 property owners join pending lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide

Posted at 4:42 PM, Nov 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 06:42:41-05

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Varnum Law Firm said it hasn't filed a class-action lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide yet but said two separate suits just might be necessary to get the shoemaker to pay residents for loss in property value, health issues and cleanup of its old, contaminated dumping sites.

Those are sites the company said it used to dump toxic byproduct decades ago. The state Department of Environmental Quality said those chemicals are showing up in groundwater.

"It has always been unlawful to pollute your neighbors groundwater. Ok, so regardless of whether the dumping violated any state law or any environmental regulation at the time, they were still responsible for the results of their actions," Aaron Phelps, attorney and partner at Varnum said.

Phelps said 80 residences in Belmont have joined the class-action case. Many continue to await groundwater test results.

"It's not entirely clear that all this dumping was legal. That's still being investigated. There's dumping on lots of places that are no licensed disposal facilities at any period of time," Phelps said.

He said the law firm has asked the company to coordinate and pay for blood testing but were told 'no.' Water filtration systems have been set up for some homes in the buffer zone, but Phelps said Wolverine hasn't responded to a request to also provide them for homes in the southeast expansion zone. Then there's Plainfield Township's $4 million plan to expand municipal water lines to the affected areas.

"It's not just the cost of bringing the water main down your street. There's the cost of hooking onto it. There's the cost of the water going forward. People who used to have free water to sprinkle their lawns with, they don't have that anymore. There are people that have geothermal systems dependent on groundwater pumping," Phelps explained.

He said any case like this is tough but feels confident with the information presented so far.

"It's clear that they're the source of the contamination. It's clear that it's caused very real damage to people. So I think they're going to ultimately be held responsible for it," Phelps said.

FOX 17 reached out to Wolverine Worldwide for comment. The company said it does not comment on legal matters.