Our Letter to the Community

Hello,

We wanted to take a minute and introduce ourselves – again.

We are Wolverine. 

We’ve been a part of this community for almost 140 years and we couldn’t be more proud to call West Michigan home. We employ 700 of your friends and family, and we’re lucky to be your neighbor.

As you’ve seen and heard, we’ve been in the news a lot lately. We’re the topic of conversations at football games, in our churches and on our neighborhood streets. There’s a lot of information out there and most nights there seems to be a new story – honestly, some of the reporting has been good and responsible, but unfortunately, much of it hasn’t.

As a result, we’ve decided to open up a direct communication channel to the residents of our community – those who are directly affected by the water issue and those who are worried about it. We want to tell you what’s happening today and what we’re planning to do tomorrow.

In addition to this letter, today we’ve launched a new blog – WeAreWolverine.com – here, we plan to publish test results as they become available and keep you up-to-date on everything we’re doing. We’ll keep this channel open as long as we need to – we have our story to tell (along with the facts about the situation) and we know no one is going to do that for us.

For over a hundred years, Wolverine has been not only a leader and contributor to this community, but we’ve also been your neighbor – that’s why we’ve taken the proactive steps we have so far and why we’re committed to seeing this through to the end.

Here are several points to remember…

  • First and foremost, we want residents to have confidence in their water. We’ve said that from the very beginning and we’ll say that to the end.
  • Some stories in the local media that have been driven by plaintiffs’ lawyers and others have caused a lot of anxiety in the community.
  • The truth is we’re still collecting the data and working to find answers. That hasn’t stopped us from taking strong, proactive steps to make it right. In some cases, it’s going to take more time, but we’re moving as fast as we can. One of most important questions we get is – How did this happen?

Wolverine operated a Tannery in downtown Rockford for over 100 years, until it closed in 2009.  Importantly, all our operations were overseen by regulatory authorities at every step and we utilized responsible practices at the time for our Tannery operations.

From the late 1950s until about 2002, we used 3M’s Scotchgard™ in the production of certain leather footwear products. 3M invented Scotchgard™ and supplied it to us. 3M’s Scotchgard™ has been used by thousands of companies and millions of consumers around the world for decades.

In 1998, 3M began discussions on their formula change with its customers because PFOA and PFOS, two compounds within the PFAS family, were “persistent in the environment.” We relied on 3M’s representations to the EPA, FDA, scientific bodies, and Wolverine regarding the safety of the Scotchgard™ formula. 3M continued to sell Scotchgard™ with PFOA/PFOS until 2002.

PFAS is considered an “emerging contaminant” and after more than three decades of study the science behind it (including potential environmental and health impacts) remains uncertain and inconclusive.

We’ve been working with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) since November 2016, when we became aware of the possible presence of PFAS in groundwater at our former Tannery location. We continue to work with the state to identify and test possible sites, and we’re working diligently to complete that process.

Here is a more detailed look at what we’ve done already:

  • Every resident whose water is being tested has a water solution until they have answers; to date, 338 homes have been offered custom, whole-house filters. Starting last week, we’re ramping up to eventually install over 55 whole-house filters per week until we’re done.
  • We’ve sampled the House Street property and our former Tannery location (along with water from the Rogue River) and we will share those results with you.
  • We’re reviewing known and alleged disposal sites in the area that may be associated with Wolverine, in partnership with MDEQ.
  • We’re talking to 3M about Scotchgard™ – they’re the experts on PFAS and we want to take advantage of their years of research and work with them to find solutions.
  • We’re cleaning up locations where we’ve identified waste from our legacy operations. This includes areas adjacent to the House Street property and our former Tannery.
  • We’ve assembled a core team inside Wolverine to see this through to the end. This team wakes up every morning to be a part of the solution to these issues.

This is, no doubt, a very complicated issue with some questions we still cannot answer. That concerns us as much as it concerns you. Regardless of all of this – we’re from here, we live here, and we promise to see this through to the end – that’s what great companies do and that’s what people from West Michigan do.

We’ve taken some punches over the past few weeks – maybe some fair, but certainly many uninformed, and frankly, unfair. But make no mistake, we’re not going anywhere and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know us very well. We know we’ve done the right thing for over a century, we’re doing the right thing today, and we’ll continue to do the right thing moving forward.

And remember – to help keep the story straight and the facts in plain view – you can visit WeAreWolverine.com. We hope you’ll follow this blog, learn about what we’re doing to make this right, and hear the other side of the story.

We are Wolverine.