Authorities were warned 3 times about water contamination near North Kent Landfill

BELMONT, Mich. -- The Kent County Department of Public Works recently released well monitor results showing PFAS at levels as high as 237 parts per trillion near the North Kent Landfill, but according to decades-old state documents obtained by FOX 17, county leaders had plenty of warning that water there was in danger of being contaminated.

The Kent County Department of Public Works and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are now coordinating well tests and providing bottled water to 47 nearby homes and businesses south and west of the North Kent Landfill. Dan Beemer and his wife were told their well was included.

"What else you gonna do?" Beemer tells FOX 17. "You know, it’s just bad. Just one of those things. So, we’ll see what our results come back in about four weeks.”

The Beemers were given 35 bottles of water and $100 in gift cards to buy more. They say they weren't told or given much else.

“They were gonna test for everything they’re looking for now, they didn’t say specifically," Beemer says.

This current contamination is something some might say was bound to happen.

Documents show that some Plainfield Township Board members, in a meeting in December 1977,  expressed concern over the danger to the environment that the waste at the North Kent Site would pose. They urged county officials to do more research on the consequences of further dumping at the landfill. According to meeting minutes, county officials disagreed and sought immediate approval for businesses to dump there in order to avoid what they called an "economic crisis." They insisted that local businesses would be in jeopardy and could even face job losses if permission was denied. Those businesses included Master Finish Company, Keeler Brass, Grand Rapids Bright Metals, and Wolverine Worldwide.

“I didn’t even know there was a landfill over there that Wolverine was using," longtime Belmont Avenue resident Leonard Kizer tells FOX 17.

In June of 1978, the township addressed a series of problems at the landfill. The township's records show those concerns went unanswered, and a state appeals board ignored multiple landfill violations.

Donald Lamoreaux. township supervisor at the time, wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Frank Kelly, writing in part, "We are extremely concerned since several streams and the ground water may be adversely effected by this waste. Water from refuse cells has been discharged into a Rogue River tributary since last fall and surface runoff has been running off site to the south thru (sic) a stilling basin."

In 2007, MDEQ documents show those fears became reality when the North Kent Landfill was found in violation of several conditions of its permit, including wastewater containing more than double the maximum limit of carbonaceous biochemical oxygen, which likely meant the wastewater was flowing more than allowed.

A woman named Sue, who asked FOX 17 not to use her last name, says she and her husband finished building their dream home a few months ago right in between the House Street dump site and the North Kent Landfill. “Before we moved in, Kent County has to give you the permit to move in. They first told us they weren’t gonna give it to us. That was right after our house was built."

Sue says the county told her they were initially denied approval to move in because the water problem was so severe. “From what I understand, they’re not giving any more permits for wells in this area, and I think we were one of the last ones," Sue says.

The Kent County Department of Public Works says the landfill was in compliance with state and federal regulations at the time, even though their own records prove otherwise. For nearly a year, beginning in September 1977, the North Kent landfill was unlicensed because of concerns over water contamination.

Wolverine Worldwide recently announced it will spend $40 million to address the issue. They continue to update the public on their blog.

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