Health Care and Manufacturing

Wolverine Worldwide giving 338 homes water-filtration systems

October 12, 2017
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Wolverine Worldwide has pledged to pay for water testing and filtration systems in homes that might have been affected by the manufacturer’s disposal of leather tanning byproducts in the 1960s.

The Rockford-based footwear and apparel maker said today wells at 338 homes in Plainfield Township are being tested for the presence of fluorinated per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which were manmade chemicals contained in 3M’s Scotchgard product applied to leather manufactured at Wolverine’s House Street tannery five decades ago.

Residents of all homes that are part of the study area established by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, or MDEQ — as well as all homes in a precautionary buffer zone — are eligible to receive whole house water-filtration systems, regardless of testing results.

“People are concerned about their water,” said Chris Hufnagel, SVP of strategy, Wolverine Worldwide. “We share in that concern, and we felt this was the right thing to do right now. While we can’t speed up the testing process, we can give people confidence in their water by providing this longer-term solution.”

Homeowners will be contacted to arrange for the installation of the filtration systems. Those seeking more information on the remediation may call Wolverine Worldwide at (616) 866-5627 or email housestreet at wwwinc dot com.

Background

According to Wolverine Worldwide, PFAS chemicals have been used for decades and are found in many products and technologies that feature non-stick, stain-resistant or water-resistant qualities.

Wolverine used 3M Scotchgard to provide water- and stain-repellant properties in some of its leathers beginning around 1960. It switched to a new formula introduced by 3M Scotchgard around 2002, when the potentially harmful properties of the chemicals were discovered and 3M made the switch.

In late spring, Wolverine discovered PFAS chemicals were in some of the drinking water in the House Street area. Since then, the company has been working with the MDEQ and the Kent County Health Department to test the water in the study area and buffer zone.

Filters and bottled water were provided to all homes initially tested. Later, Wolverine expanded its support to include whole house systems for the residents of 14 homes whose wells tested above the EPA-advisory threshold of 70 parts per trillion for the chemicals in question.

Wolverine also contacted 3M and asked them to partner in the testing and remediation process.

The test results are due in November.

Information portal

Wolverine is launching an information portal online on Friday to provide the latest information on the House Street situation, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

Wolverine Worldwide

Founded in 1883, Wolverine Worldwide makes footwear and apparel for a variety of markets: casual, active lifestyle, work, outdoor sport, athletic, children’s and uniform.

The company’s brand portfolio includes Wolverine, Merrell, Saucony and more.

Its products are carried in about 200 countries and territories.

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