Wolverine ordered to wash up arsenic, different chemical compounds


What are believed to be leftovers from the now shuttered Wolverine Worldwide tannery rest alongside the Rogue River in Rockford. (Sept. 28, 2017)

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Federal authorities are cracking down on dangerous levels of hazardous chemicals other than PFAS, the likely carcinogen at the center of a toxic tap water crisis, that have been found at Wolverine Worldwide properties in Kent County.

A 35-page cleanup order from the Environmental Protection Agency lays out the details and describes some of the toxins found at Wolverine’s former tannery site in Rockford, which closed in 2009, and at its House Street dump in Belmont, which closed in 1970.

PFAS, a likely carcinogen, has been found at both locations and in residential wells in the area. But since the EPA has no enforceable limits on PFAS, it’s focusing on other chemicals found to be above legal limits at the sites.

Those include arsenic, lead, cyanide, hexavalent chromium and other hazardous substances discovered during tests at the old tannery between 2010 and 2012. Those tests found contaminated soil around the nearby north end of the Kent walking trail and in areas where children swim in the Rogue River.

Then last fall, tests found amounts of arsenic, chromium and mercury over state limits around the House Street dump. They also found lead and copper in some nearby drinking water wells.

The EPA is giving Wolverine 60 days to develop a cleanup plan for both sites. Its order will force the Rockford-based shoe manufacturer to pay all the federal government’s costs and also threatened civil fines of nearly $54,000 per day for violations.

>>PDF: Cleanup order from EPA

There are no solid deadlines on when cleanup would actually start or how long it would take. The first step is to determine how far the contaminants have spread.

The EPA order was issued the same day the state announced it was suing Wolverine over the PFAS contamination, a step the Michigan Department of Environmental said was simply to formalize the response. In a statement, Wolverine said it will continue to cooperate with state and federal agencies.

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