Nessel outlines PFAS settlement framework

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday announced that a tentative agreement designed to provide relief to residents affected by PFAS contamination in northern Kent County has been reached between the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); Plainfield and Algoma Townships; and Wolverine Worldwide.

The agreement is the result of a lawsuit filed against Wolverine Worldwide in January 2018 by EGLE (then called MDEQ) and later joined by Plainfield and Algoma Townships. The state and townships sued for relief following the discovery of PFAS contamination in North Kent County residential drinking water wells from Wolverine’s use and disposal of PFAS-containing materials in its historic operations.

The terms of the tentative deal were reached after the parties participated in mediation in September; the parties are working to incorporate the terms into a binding agreement in the near future. Under the terms of the agreement, Wolverine will pay $69.5 million for extension of municipal water to more than 1,000 properties. The agreement will also outline Wolverine’s ongoing responsibilities – under State oversight – for addressing the presence of PFAS in area groundwater.

“I am pleased to see progress toward getting relief for the residents and the environment in North Kent County,” said Nessel. “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. Reaching a tentative agreement with Wolverine is an important step that moves us closer to our ultimate goal of ensuring that every Michigan resident has access to clean, safe drinking water.”

Under the agreement, Plainfield Township will construct and operate the municipal water extensions depicted on the attached map, which will be built in phases. Wolverine will also be required to continue to maintain the water filters it has installed pending hookup to municipal water; for houses not receiving municipal water under this agreement, Wolverine must maintain filters it has already installed for any well with PFOA+PFOS detected above 10 ppt (or other PFAS cleanup criteria, upon effectiveness).  

The terms of the deal also include investigation and actions to mitigate risk at Wolverine’s former tannery, the House Street site, and the Rogue River – where Wolverine has already been conducting PFAS testing and response activities – along with groundwater studies and monitoring, all under EGLE oversight.

“Governor Whitmer has made clean, safe drinking water for all Michiganders a top priority for this administration and EGLE,” said EGLE Director Liesl Clark. “The strong partnership we have forged with the State Attorney General’s Office will help us achieve fair and equitable solutions for communities impacted by PFAS contamination.”

The final binding agreement requires approval by U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff, Western District of Michigan.   If approved, this Consent Decree will resolve the lawsuit between Wolverine, the State, and Plainfield and Algoma Townships.

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