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Plainfield Township votes to enter federal lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide

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BELMONT, Mich.-- The Plainfield Township Board voted unanimously Monday night to pass a resolution to enter the federal lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide. The move indicates a lack of reliability the township feels toward the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to represent its interests adequately in court.

The MDEQ sued Wolverine in federal court on January 10 for the alleged contamination of municipal drinking water supplies. According to the resolution, Plainfield Township leaders do not believe the MDEQ, nor Wolverine represent the interests of Plainfield and Algoma Townships, which is why they would enter the litigation themselves.

Following the vote, Trustee Bill Brinkman told Township Attorney Doug Van Essen to "Go get 'em."

The board voted on Monday night at a regular board meeting at the township office in Belmont. Van Essen will now propose a resolution to involve Algoma Township in the lawsuit, as it is also served by Plainfield's municipal water system.

The resolution also approves a tolling agreement with Waste Management, which is also involved in a lawsuit. This agreement means both parties waive the right to dismiss litigation over expired statue of limitations, since much of the dumping in question occurred decades ago.

Wolverine Worldwide says they "welcome the Township to participate" in the matter with their company, as well as the state of Michigan. Wolverine posted a statement on its blog earlier Monday, saying in part:

"We understand Plainfield Township is considering a resolution tonight to try to become a party to the State’s lawsuit.  It is possible an expansion of the Township’s municipal water system could be part of a comprehensive plan, along with other solutions used around the country, like drilling deeper wells and using filters similar to those Wolverine has already provided."

Wolverine goes on to say that the company is not in a position to move forward with separate discussions with the Township on a proposed municipal water extension.

A representative for Wolverine provided a statement FOX 17 detailing that while the company is familiar with this resolution, "We have not seen the Township’s legal motion, so we cannot comment directly on it.”

The passing of this resolution lends perspective on the township's relationship with the MDEQ. It's the first time the Township has been blunt about the matter of the MDEQ not adequately representing its interests.

In an interview with FOX 17, District Supervisor Abigail Hendershott says the MDEQ is not ready to say Wolverine Worldwide's dumping at the site of the Northeast Gravel Company, known now as the Boulder Creek Golf Club, directly caused contamination in Plainfield's municipal water system.

Despite numerous recommendations to install a clay cap to contain the waste, one wasn't installed until after 1995. Even then, according to Hendershott, it was made from sand, not clay.

“It’s very hard to go back and apply what we think would be appropriate for today back to what we did back then," Hendershott tells FOX 17.

The MDEQ will request a remedial investigation be conducted by Northeast Gravel Company to determine if its site is the source of the PFAS and potentially other contaminants detected in groundwater in the area.

For more of the MDEQ's interview, watch the video above.

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