State’s review of cancer rates in northern Kent County finds few differences with statewide averages

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services along with the Kent County Health Department on Tuesday released a review of health data that, with the exception of prostate cancer,  found no consistent elevation in cancer rates for the selected areas of northern Kent County.

However, the MDHHS report made it clear that any potential link between PFAS and prostate cancer is “weak and there are other factors known to influence prostate [cancer] incidence that are beyond the scope of this review to address.”  These include differences in genetics, environmental exposures, PSA screening rates and socioeconomic status.

Michigan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells said, MDHHS is “not convinced” that the elevated incidence for prostate cancer is fully explained by PFAS, and MDHHS could not “make that linkage” between prostate cancer and PFAS.

Kent County Health Officer Adam London concluded the meeting saying  he was relieved by the results.

“I’ve been very concerned. I think a lot of people in our community have been very concerned and had a fear that we were going to see, when we looked at the data, that we were going to see some extraordinary difference in the rate of cancer in this area. I’m encouraged and I’m thankful that overall, we’re not seeing that,” London said.

The lack of definitive and elevated results presented by health officials underscores how complicated issues related to PFAS continue to be.  As MDHHS notes, the ability to draw any more specific conclusions is constrained by the limitations of the study.  These include:

  • The study cannot determine the linkage of any cancer occurrence with environmental conditions including PFAS exposure nor the cause of observed increases or decreases of any cancer types over time.
  • The areas analyzed as part of the study do not exactly match the MDEQ Study Areas.
  • The study cannot determine which individuals (with or without cancer) residing with the evaluated geographic area have been exposed to PFAS.

The MDHHS report released today is the first step in an ongoing and long-term scientific analysis of the potential health impacts of PFAS exposure in our community.  Wolverine Worldwide continues to work diligently with all local, state and federal regulators to collect the right data and develop long-term solutions for our community.

You can read the state’s full report here: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MIDHHS/2018/08/14/file_attachments/1054874/2018-08-14%2BKent%2BCounty%2BCancer%2BIncidence%2BReport%2BFINAL.pdf

A replay of the joint press conference hosted by the Kent County Health Department and the state can be found here: https://livestream.com/wood/special-events/videos/178928776

Additional Testing to Begin at Former Tannery Site

Wolverine Worldwide has been working diligently with regulators to collect data and develop long-term water solutions for our community, and we promised to keep you informed about our ongoing efforts.

Consistent with this commitment, we want to tell you about additional groundwater, surface water, sediment and soil sampling that will take place over the next few months at our former tannery in Rockford.  Wolverine operated the tannery from the early 1900s until it was closed in 2009, then decommissioned beginning in 2010 under agency supervision.

Wolverine has already conducted testing at the former tannery site, including many soil samples, drilling 42 on-site monitoring wells, and taking more than 165 groundwater samples from the monitoring wells.  Wolverine reported preliminary results from this earlier testing in our blog in November.

The upcoming work is being performed by Wolverine and its consultants pursuant to work plans submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Work kicked off this week with site preparation activities and will take place primarily over the next three months, with a second round of testing this fall.  The work will be overseen by the EPA and MDEQ.  We anticipate that approximately 100 soil samples, 100 groundwater samples, 14 surface water samples and 35 to 70 sediment samples will be taken and assessed for organic compounds, metals, PFAS, and other compounds.  Up to 10 additional monitoring wells may also be added to the site.

Over the next three months, you may see trucks, work crews, warning signs and equipment at the site, which will be fenced off for the duration of the work.  There will also be some work in the White Pine Trail for approximately a week.  We will attempt to complete this work with as little disruption as possible.

In addition, even while testing is still taking place, Wolverine is already moving forward with a plan announced earlier this month to intercept and treat groundwater from the former Tannery site that contains PFOA/PFOS to prevent it from reaching Rum Creek or the Rogue River.  Wolverine expects that the interception and treatment of groundwater at the former tannery site will help reduce PFOA/PFOS levels and is working with MDEQ to develop that plan.

The efforts announced today are examples of Wolverine’s commitment to work diligently with regulators, our neighbors and the surrounding community to address groundwater issues.  Residents with questions or concerns are encouraged to visit our blog at www.WeAreWolverine.com, or to contact the Company directly at 616.866.5627 or HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

Wolverine to Intercept and Treat Groundwater from former Tannery site

As Wolverine Worldwide continues to work with regulatory agencies to monitor our former Tannery site and House Street disposal area, we wanted to update you on our latest efforts to address groundwater issues in our area.

Over the past several months, Wolverine has been developing a plan to intercept and treat groundwater from the former Tannery site that contains PFOA/PFOS, preventing it from reaching Rum Creek or the Rogue River.

We are now working in coordination with MDEQ to expedite this process following a recent test result showing the presence of PFOS in foam in one location in the Rogue RiverThe Kent County Health Department (KCHD) announced the test result today and issued an advisory.  In that advisory, KCHD indicates that people using the river for recreational purposes should avoid ingestion of the foam, but that skin contact does not pose a health risk.

While additional testing will be conducted and sources of PFOS in the river and foam are still being identified, we are doing our part to address it. Wolverine expects that the interception and treatment of groundwater at the former Tannery site will help reduce PFOS levels in this foam.

In water bodies where foam with PFOS is generated, the PFOS is concentrated in the foam and is not reflective of the PFOS level in the underlying river and creek water.  For example, as we shared on our blog last fall, the Rogue River was tested in multiple locations in 2017 and levels ranged from 6.2 – 16.8 ppt for PFOA/PFOS combined.

While not applicable to river water or foam because they are not used for drinking water, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has issued a drinking water lifetime health advisory and the State of Michigan has established drinking water criteria at 70 ppt combined for PFOA/PFOS.  Additional water and foam testing will be conducted in the future in coordination with MDEQ to provide additional data and help identify potential sources.

We are sharing this information because we want residents to know what we know. Our first priority has been and continues to be the health and well-being of the community. We will continue to be proactive and transparent as we work through these issues related to our legacy tannery operations.

Wolverine began closing its tanning operation in Rockford in 2009 through a process monitored by the MDEQ and other government regulators, and we have been working with the MDEQ since then to monitor this site.  We continue to work in collaboration with the MDEQ and other agencies on this issue.  As we develop and deploy this plan and more information becomes available, we will continue to keep our neighbors and the community informed through our blog – www.WeAreWolverine.com

Additional Testing to Begin at Former House Street Disposal Area

Wolverine Worldwide has been working diligently with regulators to collect data and develop long-term water solutions for our community, and we promised to keep you informed about our ongoing efforts.  Consistent with this commitment, we want to tell you about additional groundwater and soil sampling that will be taking place over the next few months at our former state-licensed House Street disposal area.  This was a location where byproducts from Wolverine’s leather tanning operations were disposed of during the 1960s and until 1970.

Wolverine has already conducted extensive testing at the House Street disposal area, including many waste and soil samples, drilling 12 on-site monitoring wells, drilling 18 off-site monitoring wells, and taking more than 25 groundwater samples from the monitoring wells.  Wolverine posted preliminary results from this earlier testing on its blog.

The upcoming work is being performed by Wolverine and its consultants pursuant to work plans that were submitted by Wolverine and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).   It will kick off this week with site preparation activities, and take place primarily over the next two months with a second round of testing this fall.  The work will be overseen by the EPA and the MDEQ, and we anticipate that as many as 250 soil samples, 50 groundwater samples, and also soil gas samples will be taken and assessed for organic compounds, metals, PFAS, and other compounds.

Residents near the House Street site have been notified about this work, and over this time you may see trucks, work crews, warning signs and equipment at the House Street site.  We will attempt to complete this work with as little impact on and disruption to the surrounding neighbors as possible.

The upcoming testing is another example of the Company’s commitment to work diligently with regulators and the community to address groundwater issues.  We anticipate implementing a work plan at Wolverine’s former tannery site this summer as well, and will share additional details about that work on this blog as they are available.  Residents with questions or concerns are encouraged to visit our blog at www.WeAreWolverine.com, or to contact the Company directly at 616.866.5627 or HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.