Wolverine Highlights Community Response in Letter to the Editor

Last week the MLive/The Grand Rapids Press published an editorial critical of Wolverine Worldwide.  We felt compelled to set the record straight, and responded by submitting the letter that follows below.  MLive/The Grand Rapids Press published our letter online today, and plans to publish it in print this Sunday.

To the Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board:

Wolverine Worldwide has been part of this community for almost 140 years, and we couldn’t be prouder to call West Michigan home.  Our employees, retirees, friends, and family members live, work, and raise their children here, and our company was founded along the banks of the Rogue River.  That’s why we’ve taken proactive steps to address PFAS issues in the area, and why we’re committed to seeing this through to the end.

Our strong and deep community roots are also why we’re writing today to set the record straight.  While some of the media coverage about Wolverine has been fair and responsible, unfortunately some of it has not.  One of the most recent examples of this is the Grand Rapids Press’ latest editorial against Wolverine (“It’s time to do the right thing, Wolverine”).

First, the editorial calls on Wolverine to “step up now to assist the community,” but ignores that we’ve been here doing that from the very start.  Indeed, even with uncertainty about PFAS in the scientific and regulatory communities, Wolverine ensured all affected residents have access to safe and reliable drinking water by quickly and voluntarily providing bottled water and over 700 proven, highly effective filters – the majority of which went to homes with low or no PFAS in their water.

In addition, Wolverine has worked with the EPA and DEQ to conduct comprehensive environmental investigations at its House Street and former Tannery properties – including drilling dozens of monitoring wells, and collecting hundreds of soil, groundwater, sediment, soil gas, and surface water samples.  We’re also installing a filtration system to capture and treat groundwater at the former Tannery before it reaches the Rogue River.

It’s true that Wolverine has been sued by some residents, including dozens whose water has no PFAS, and others who don’t even live in the area.  We’ll continue to vigorously defend ourselves against these and other meritless claims.  At the same time, we have neither slowed down nor wavered in our commitment to helping our friends, family members, and neighbors in our community and have dedicated over $35 million to-date to our remediation efforts.  In addition, earlier this year we sued 3M, which manufactured, tested, and sold Scotchgard to Wolverine and millions of others for decades, to ensure they do their part to address the impact of their product on this community.

Second, the editorial claims that whole house filters are “not a permanent solution,” and the “obvious” solution is for Wolverine to pay to extend Plainfield Township’s municipal water system.  But the truth is that the whole house filters Wolverine has provided use the same carbon technology used in municipal water filters like the one recently installed by Plainfield Township, and these whole house filters have proven to be highly effective at eliminating PFAS.

Wolverine has said from the start that we intend to be part of developing water quality solutions for our community – and we’ve backed up our words with actions.  Whether these solutions ultimately include the extension of municipal water to certain areas, and who would supply this water, however, has not yet been decided.  Those decisions will be reached based on facts, data, and discussions with regulators and other involved parties – not through grandstanding by Township officials or pressure from the media.

Finally, the editorial inaccurately states that Judge Janet T. Neff ordered Wolverine, 3M, the State of Michigan, and the Townships to “reach a consensus by July 8” on how to remedy groundwater in the House Street area.

This is simply not true, and the Press appears to have adopted it from an inaccurate press release issued by Plainfield Township.  In fact, the judge’s actual request was for the parties to propose a process that the Court can later use to determine whether any remedy is needed beyond what Wolverine has already done.  This distinction is complex, much like the water quality issues we are currently addressing in the community, but it’s a distinction that is critical for the public to understand.

In closing, Wolverine has been in the community for over 100 years, and we plan to be here for 100 more.  We understand and embrace our responsibilities as a community leader, and are committed to seeing this through to the end.  That’s what great companies do, and that’s what people from West Michigan do.  We encourage readers who want the facts to visit our blog at WeAreWolverine.com.

/s David A. Latchana, Associate General Counsel and Assistant Secretary