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“Two properties at the center of Michigan’s most severe PFAS contamination zone are being eyed for addition to a roster of the nation’s most toxic sites.

The former Wolverine Worldwide tannery in Rockford and the company’s old dump in Belmont are being evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for inclusion on its list of sites under long-term federal oversight.

Both properties could be formally designated as Superfund sites, EPA says, depending on the outcome of new testing and reviews that will support a potential recommendation that they be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).

If listed, local advocates are hopeful the EPA program will result in a more robust cleanup for both properties beyond emergency work that took place in 2019 and 2020.

‘Nobody wants to live next to a Superfund site. It’s not top on the list of Zillow filters when you’re looking for where you want to live,’ said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, who lives across the street from Wolverine’s House Street dump. ‘But the fact is that we have to do something with the contamination we’ve got and need to make sure it’s taken care of well.’

Preliminary assessment began last fall on House Street, where in the 1960s, Wolverine dumped its leftover leather manufacturing sludge from the downtown Rockford tannery on a 76-acre hilltop, slowly poisoning the drinkable groundwater below with a plume of so-called ‘forever chemicals’ that wasn’t discovered until almost 50 years later.

In Rockford, the process is further along. Officials are picking up where they left off in 2012, when EPA left the tannery under state oversight following pressure from local officials.

The EPA says a potential Superfund listing wouldn’t occur before 2024 and a decision would depend on the results of new contamination sampling and support from the state. Finalizing a listing would require the input and support of a governor who could be a Republican if Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not re-elected in November.

Draft Wolverine site reports are due in early 2023.

Should the sites be listed, their inclusion would follow an influx of funding to the Superfund program from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which put $1 billion toward clearing out a backlog of cleanups across the country. The law also re-established a chemical tax, which, before its expiration in the 1990s, helped provide steady cleanup funding.”…