13 October 2017
The international Hush Puppies shoe brand has left a toxic footprint in neighborhoods north of Grand Rapids.
By Amy Biolchini | firstname.lastname@example.org
<p>ROCKFORD, MI – The international Hush Puppies shoe brand has left a toxic footprint in neighborhoods north of Grand Rapids.</p><p>Dangerous Scotchgard chemicals used to waterproof the shoes in the Rockford-based Wolverine World Wide tannery were dumped on the ground in sites around the Rockford area in the 1960s and 1970s.</p><p>The chemicals quietly polluted groundwater and drinking water wells for decades – and state and local officials are now trying to determine the scope of the problem. A cancer study is underway, and wells are being tested.</p><p>Wednesday another dump site was confirmed by state officials about half a mile from a school, prompting an immediate switch to bottled water in the building.</p><p>As the investigation continues to turn up more details, here's what's known so far about the extent of the contamination.</p><p>Tannery site 1.JPG </p><p>A woman pushes a stroller on the trail next to the field where the Wolverine World Wide tannery once stood in Rockford on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Wolverine is testing the river and its former leather tannery site nearby for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), also known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which were used in the Scotchgarding process to make Hush Puppies brand shoes. (Garret Ellison | MLive.com)</p><p></p><p>Wolverine dumped chemicals on the ground in the 1960s and 1970s</p><p>Waste chemicals from Wolverine World Wide’s Rockford tannery were dumped at a number of sites in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when liners and other protective measures were not required by law.</p><p>That’s meant that the dangerous chemicals have drained into the groundwater over time – and are now appearing in drinking water wells in the area. </p><p>Rockford PFAS investigation at former Wolverine World Wide tannery </p><p>Leather scraps found along the Rogue River in Rockford on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. The scraps are from a former Wolverine World Wide tannery that was demolished in 2010. They are located along the White Pine Trail near the Wolverine shoe store. (Garret Ellison | MLive.com)</p><p></p><p>The chemicals have known impacts in humans</p><p>Wolverine World Wide began using Scotchgard to waterproof the pigskin leather it used in its Hush Puppies shoes at the Rockford tannery in the 1960s -- and then dumped the waste at a number of sites. </p><p>In Scotchgard are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances called PFAS, (also called perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs).</p><p>The chemicals are dangerous: exposure to PFAS compounds like perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) have been linked through human studies to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension, thyroid problems and cholesterol issues, according to state toxicologists.</p><p>Scientists who study compounds like PFOS and PFOA consider the public health threat they pose to be significant because they are each toxic, water soluble, bio-accumulative and persist in the environment. </p><p></p><p></p><p></p><p>Six dump sites have been confirmed so far</p><p>The PFAS chemicals are known to have been dumped by Wolverine in six sites in Kent County to date: </p><p>- The State Disposal Landfill at 3954 E. Beltline Ave. NE in Plainfield Township. The landfill is now is owned by Waste Management Inc. through a subsidiary.</p><p>- In a gravel pit at the Northeast Gravel Co., which has since been redeveloped into the Boulder Creek Golf Club at 5750 Brewer Ave. NE in Belmont.</p><p>- At 1855 House Street NE in Plainfield Township. Barrels were being removed Thursday, Oct. 12, from a site across the street on Michigan Department of Transportation property.</p><p>- Half a mile northeast of East Rockford Middle School at 8615 9 Mile Road NE, between 9 Mile and 10 Mile roads. Drinking fountains at the school were disabled Thursday, Oct. 12, as the school switched to bottled water. </p><p>- Near what is now a staging area for the White Pine Trail at 4400 12 Mile Road NE in Algoma Township. </p><p>- At the Butterworth Landfill at 1450 Butterworth St. SW in Grand Rapids </p><p>The Kent County Health Department has also identified another site that is a part of its investigation: a farm near 14 Mile Road and Northland Drive NE. </p><p>Health department officials said more sites could be added as the investigation progresses. </p><p></p><p>Wolverine searching its disposal records</p><p>Wolverine World Wide's Chris Hufnagel, senior vice president of corporate strategy, said the company is reviewing its records to determine how waste was disposed of during the past five decades. </p><p>The House Street site was a state-licensed facility at the time. After 1970, Wolverine turned to other disposal sites, Hufnagel said, including the Northeast Gravel pit.</p>
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