Wolverine Worldwide, public officials avoid specifics on water contamination during town hall

Posted at 9:52 PM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 21:53:25-05

ROCKFORD, Mich. -- The Kent County Health Department hosted a community town hall on Wednesday night to give residents a chance to publicly address Wolverine Worldwide and several state departments about the contamination of their water.

The Kent County Health Department began the town hall meeting by saying that they understand people are afraid because they don't know what exactly is going on.  They admitted that there is a lot that they in fact don't know as a public department of health.  They're calling the situation an "emerging contaminant."

"The science isn't to the point to get us where we can say, 'You know what, don't worry about it,'" said Kory Goetsch with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Health experts revealed that there is still a lot to learn about PFAS, the chemicals contaminating groundwater and the wells of some homes in the Belmont area.

The biggest things people at the meeting wanted to know were who is going to clean it up, and, more urgently, who will give them clean water in the meantime?

"I just want some financial responsibility realized on the part of the polluter, Wolverine," one resident said at the meeting. "And it's a hard thing ... Let's just do it right and have some financial accountability and make this right for everyone."

Wolverine Worldwide says they're doing as much as they can, including testing and clean-up.

"We are dedicated to doing the right thing, getting the right data, working with the right experts and finding solutions," said Chris Hufnagel with Wolverine. "We're not going anyplace."

When questioned about specifics, including the potential dangers of these chemicals, the state stepped in.

"We're watching those levels, making sure they're not going up or down, they're not variable," said Carol Isaacs with Gov. Rick Snyder's office, who added the state is working with Plainfield Township "to ensure we've got clean drinking water for everybody."

Many townships test their water quarterly, but only for 90 specific chemicals which are approved by the EPA, none of which are PFAS.  That testing doesn't cover the people who have private wells on their property.  That, along with different areas producing different results, is leaving residents in the dark.