Dec 12, 2019

Former Michigan Shoe Factory Steps Closer to $69.5 Million Settlement

Former shoe factory Wolverine Worldwide is nearing a $69.5 million settlement after using per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds for decades. 

well water treatment

Rockford, Michigan’s former shoe factory, Wolverine Worldwide, is nearing a $69.5 million settlement with the state of Michigan, as well as Plainfield and Algoma townships.

The factory used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds for decades, according to the Detroit Free Press. Wolverine Worldwide would agree to pay for an extension of municipal water supplies to more than 1,000 properties whose wells were tainted with PFAS.

The company is also required to continue remediation efforts along House Street and its former tannery site in Rockford, which was demolished in 2010. 

The settlement would resolve a federal lawsuit filed against the shoe maker by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, that was later joined by the two townships.

"I am pleased to see progress toward getting relief for the residents and the environment in north Kent County," said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement. "PFAS contamination is a serious environmental problem that demands action, and I am proud that Michigan is leading the nation in efforts to combat PFAS contamination."

The settlement does not resolve multiple class-action and individual lawsuits filed against Wolverine by residents who were exposed to PFAS through their well water, reported the Detroit Free Press.

"The municipal water extension and other actions will help reduce future litigation and remediation costs, and resolve the pending regulatory litigation," said Wolverine Worldwide Chairman, CEO and President Blake W. Krueger. "We also expect this to improve our legal position in other pending cases. Just as important, these actions support our efforts to resolve this legacy matter quickly."

Wolverine is in discussions with 3M, the company who manufactured the PFAS compounds in the ScotchGard water repellent used on the factory's Hush Puppies shoes, reported the Detroit Free Press

Under the terms of the agreement, Wolverine would be required to continue to maintain water filtration systems for the affected homes not receiving the municipal water extension.

The construction and operation of the extended municipal water system aims to begin construction next year and take five years to complete, according to the Detroit Free Press. Wolverine is also working with the EPA to begin excavation of soils, sediments, hides and leather scraps near its former factory.

The agreement is being formalized into a consent decree that the parties expect to complete by the end of 2019.

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