Breaking down the details of the EPA’s order to Wolverine Worldwide

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The Environmental Protection Agency has served West Michigan-based shoemaker Wolverine Worldwide a long to-do list to fix a mess it made for decades.

As families in northern Kent County search for explanations for their cancer diagnoses and a a variety of seemingly random health issues, the EPA is making its facts known about the hazardous chemicals found at the sites of Wolverine's former tannery property and the House Street dump site.

A "unilateral administrative order for removal actions" requires Wolverine to plan and execute what is essentially a massive clean-up effort of two properties that are contaminated by chemicals likely from the company's waste.

Read the full order

According to the order, the EPA found dangerous levels of chemicals, including arsenic, ammonia, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cadmium, cyanide, lead, mercury, selenium and more on these sites.

The EPA order states "the groundwater in the area of the tannery property is vulnerable to contamination from the land surface due to highly permeable sand and gravel soils that are part of the local geology."  The agency goes on to say that conditions at these sites likely led to harmful chemicals found in private drinking water wells in the area.

Now, the EPA is making sure Wolverine doesn't spare any detail or expense to fix the situation.

According to the order's action memorandum, Wolverine must submit a work plan to the EPA of how the company will:

  • Eliminate the hazardous substances found on these sites
  • Protect the workers who perform the clean-up
  • Report all progress and issues to the EPA
  • Give the EPA access to all work and samples obtained during the process
  • Foot the bill of any and all costs associated with the clean up as well as all of the EPA's costs connected to the order

If Wolverine violates any provision of the order, they will face a fine of up to $53,907 per day. The company does have the right to contest anything in the order, but it requires a lengthy legal process involving the EPA.

This order only applies to the tannery property on Main Street in Rockford and the House Street disposal area in Plainfield Township. Other dump sites have yet to be fully evaluated by the EPA.

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