Regulators order river cleanup near former Michigan tannery

Posted at 5:01 AM, May 20, 2019

ROCKFORD, Mich. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is ordering a former tannery to dig contaminated sediment and excavate soil from areas in western Michigan after finding high pollution levels where the shoemaker once operated.

The EPA sent a letter last month listing several cleanup steps federal regulators want Wolverine World Wide to take this summer, the Grand Rapids Press reported. The agency has ordered Wolverine to dredge the Rogue River and excavate along the White Pine Trail in Rockford.

Wolverine said it’s reviewing the EPA’s letter, and “looks forward to continuing to work with the agency to develop next steps.”

The EPA also requested that Wolverine put up signs to notify the public of potential hazards near river entry points by the end of May.

“There may be exposure risks that can’t necessarily wait for an overall plan to address the entire site,” said Jeff Kimble, an EPA official who’s supervising the contamination investigations at Wolverine’s former tannery and dump site.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, were discovered at Wolverine’s former Rockford factory grounds and its nearby waste dump in Belmont, sparking federal regulators to oversee contamination testing last year.

The investigation uncovered high levels of volatile contaminants, including chromium and mercury. Some of the toxic metals were found in groundwater and sediment near areas where people often launch canoes and kayaks along White Pine Trail.

The cleanup work could close some parts of the trail this summer, Kimble said.

The Belmont site where Wolverine dumped waste in the 1960s has a PFAS plume that’s moving through an area where thousands of people rely on groundwater for drinking. The EPA has requested interior fencing around the dump’s contaminated area and further testing of the wetlands nearby.

An investigation report is pending approval from federal regulators, Kimble said.