“ROCKFORD, MI —  Full federal scrutiny is finally coming to bear on the polluted Wolverine World Wide tannery in downtown Rockford, five years after the Environmental Protection Agency stepped away from its initial investigation and left the site under state control.

The EPA says new contamination testing will begin mid-month at the former manufacturing grounds, where, from 1908 to 2009, Wolverine churned out treated leather that helped the footwear company grow into a global business with $2.4 billion in revenue last year.

The testing will be more thorough than Wolverine desired.

The EPA wants Wolverine to conduct extensive soil and groundwater sampling across the entire 15-acre property, which has been open to the public as an informal community green space used sporadically for downtown events since the buildings were razed in 2010.

Data shows the property is fouled by arsenic, chromium and lead in addition to the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, that have sparked new site scrutiny.

The now-empty land where Wolverine reneged on a promise to build a downtown Rockford shoe store is back in federal crosshairs after extremely high PFAS levels were found at the tannery, Wolverine’s House Street sludge dump and other places where the company cached toxic waste around northern Kent County.

The tannery scored high enough to warrant inclusion on the federal Superfund list of toxic sites, but the EPA acquiesced in 2012 to substantial pushback from Wolverine and community leaders who lobbied hard to keep the century-old factory grounds under a state-led, voluntary environmental cleanup program.

Whether the site attains Superfund status is an open question.”

Read the full article by Garret Ellison