Kent Co. Health Dept investigating contaminated groundwater in Belmont

BELMONT, Mich. -- Contaminated groundwater found near a former Wolverine Worldwide dumping site has prompted Kent County officials to investigate the possible health impact to some residents in the Belmont area.

Brian Hartl is an epidemiologist with the Kent County Health Department. He says they found chemicals connected to shoe treatment leeched into the groundwater near Wolverine Worldwide at their former dumpsite near White Pine Trail and 12 Mile Road.

"It's obviously not very comforting to know you have chemicals in your groundwater," Hartl said.

Hartl says about 200 homes are part of the investigation. Right now, officials are looking to see if exposure to the chemicals can cause health problems, and if so, how long neighbors have been exposed.

"The question is we don't know how long the chemical has been in the groundwater," Hartl says. "It was dumped in the 70s and 60s, so we just don't know how long it has been in the groundwater. There may have been exposure over time where some of these people show symptoms."

"We know it's there, but we don't know how long it's been there."

Health officials don't know how long someone has to be exposed to the contaminated water to show adverse health effects. The county health department is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Environmental Quality to conduct tests and issue surveys to homes to learn about the potential impact.

"What we're doing is we're looking at vital statistics, vital records of cancer cases in the affected areas, and we're comparing those to other parts in the county that didn't have that contaminate in the groundwater," Hartl says.

Answers may be available in a few months after the survey is administered. According to the health department, there may be up to seven more dump sites in the area with similar health concerns.

The health department says Wolverine Worldwide is cooperating with their investigation. Wolverine has issued bottled water and filters to residents to treat some of their water.

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