Company to pay $70M to settle Kent County PFAS suit

    Image by Baudolino from Pixabay

    Wolverine Worldwide will pay $69.5 million to settle a lawsuit over the company contaminating drinking water in Kent County, according to a press release from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

    Following the discovery of PFAS in the drinking water in northern Kent County, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) filed the lawsuit in January 2018 seeking relief for residents. Wolverine had been using and disposing of PFAS containing materials in the area.

    In recent years, PFAS has been linked to cancer and has become a frontline issue for Michigan residents and politicians. From firefighting foam to non-stick kitchenware to shampoo, the chemicals have been found in a variety of products.

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    Plainfield and Algoma townships later joined the lawsuit. Now Wolverine is responsible to finance connecting more than 1,000 properties to municipal water and maintain the area’s water filters. Wolverine, under state supervision, also must address the issue of PFAS in the groundwater of Kent County.

    Nessel said she is pleased to see progress made to better the environment, health and well-being of Kent County residents after almost two years.

    Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

    “PFAS contamination is a serious environmental problem that demands action, and I am proud that Michigan is leading the nation in efforts to combat PFAS contamination,” Nessel said in a statement. “Reaching a tentative agreement with Wolverine is an important step that moves us closer to our ultimate goal of ensuring that every Michigan resident has access to clean, safe drinking water.”

    After the Flint water crisis where cost-cutting led to dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water, Great Lakes State residents are attuned to water issues.

    U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) co-chairs the congressional PFAS task force. The former Wurtsmith Airforce Base in Oscoda in Kildee’s district is one of the major contamination sites in Michigan. U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) also have been vocal on PFAS.

    Anna Liz Nichols
    Anna Liz Nichols covers criminal justice, the environment and the Legislature. She has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She is finishing up a degree in journalism and environmental studies at Michigan State University, graduating May 2020.