Read the full article by Garret Ellison (MLive)

“ROCKFORD, MI — Wolverine Worldwide has earned a legal citation from Michigan environmental regulators for delaying the launch of a long-awaited system to remove contaminated groundwater entering the Rogue River where the company’s century-old shoe leather tannery once stood.

On Oct. 19, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued Wolverine a violation notice after the company failed to begin construction on a treatment system that would extract PFAS in downtown Rockford.

Wolverine has yet to finalize the design for a granular activated carbon (GAC) and resin system that would extract polluted groundwater, filter it, and discharge it back to the river near the company’s Footwear Depot store.

The stalled project has been in various planning stages since early 2019, when several high-volume groundwater extraction wells were installed at the site.

Wolverine used 3M Scotchgard at the tannery for decades to waterproof leather. Tannery waste dumps polluted large swaths of northern Kent County. In Rockford, extremely high levels of PFAS remain in the groundwater; upwards of 500,000 parts-per-trillion (ppt) near outdoor chemical storage areas.

The tannery was demolished in 2010 and 2011.

Under terms in a 2020 consent decree, Wolverine was supposed to finally begin treatment construction in September after EGLE approved a workplan in March.

‘The schedules are serious. They are bound by the consent decree,’ said Karen Vorce, EGLE remediation division district supervisor in Grand Rapids. ‘If they don’t think they’re going to meet those schedules, they have to let us know ahead of time and get approval.’

‘Every day that passes is another day that the (PFAS) contamination is discharging to the Rogue River without being impeded,’ Vorce said.

Wolverine did not respond to media questions about the delay submitted through its public relations firm Lambert.

Vorce said Wolverine has until Dec. 1 to submit a new plan that incorporates proposed design changes. The state could pursue civil fines in court if that’s not done.

According to EGLE, Wolverine wants to redesign the system to includes more extraction wells as well as a trench to intercept shallow groundwater along Rum Creek.

The proposed changes mirror feedback EGLE has been giving Wolverine on the system design for years.

Originally, the ‘tannery interceptor plan’ would have sent treated groundwater to the North Kent Sewer System in Plainfield Township. Plans were redrafted during consent decree negotiations and the work was delayed by the onset of a separate 2019 tannery cleanup ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” …