Amid skepticism, state of Michigan takes steps to address water contamination

Posted at 10:43 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 22:43:26-05

LANSING, Mich.-- The state of Michigan took major steps this week to address the growing concern of contaminated water potentially caused by Wolverine Worldwide dump sites, though some remain skeptical due to the state's history on the issue.

On Tuesday for the first time ever, legislators in Michigan set a threshold for PFAs in water. It's a move that will let the state issue violation notices and take any necessary legal action in the future.

For parents of Jack McNaughton, this decision came too late. Seth and Tobyn McNaughton tell FOX 17 that the level of PFAs in their son's blood is nearly 50 times higher than the average American. When asked if they were happy about the state's new threshold, Tobyn didn't hold back:

“No, no cause if they didn’t have a limit to start with, then they should have been looking at like New Jersey and a couple other states where their limit is like, 14," Tobyn says. "But they instead just, ‘we don’t have a limit. Let’s just go with what the feds say.’ I don’t agree with what the feds say. I think 70 is too high.”

Seventy parts per trillion is a level that State Representative Winnie Brinks also calls "too high." She released a statement on Thursday that reads, in part:

“More must be done to keep these toxins out of drinking water. Seventy parts per trillion (ppt) is simply too high to protect our health. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to place a stronger limit of 5 ppt on dangerous PFAS chemicals in drinking water. The sooner the Legislature acts to limit the presence of these toxins in our water, the sooner people will be protected."

The state also took a step on Wednesday to hold Wolverine Worldwide accountable for the contamination by filing a lawsuit in federal court.

State Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether said in a statement, "We have filed this action today because we want to ensure that immediate and long-term solutions are confirmed by the courts."

State Representative Winnie Brinks (D) says she hopes the state government will work to act in the best interests of its constituents.

"I am really hopeful that we will hear some evidence from various departments at the state level that we have learned something from Flint and we’re not seeing this tragic story repeated right here in Grand Rapids," Brinks tells FOX 17.

Wolverine is also facing over 50 lawsuits from Varnum as well as a class-action lawsuit led by Erin Brockovich, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Miller Law, and Weitz & Luxenberg.

Wolverine Worldwide has a blog to provide the community with updates on the situation.