White Pine Trail Detour to Begin Wednesday, October 2

As we discussed here and here, Wolverine will be conducting cleanup work this fall at the site of its former tannery in Rockford. As part of this work, the DNR has now issued a permit to close and re-route the White Pine Trail as shown in red on this map. The closure will commence tomorrow, October 2, and last for the duration of the work.

Wolverine and its contractors will strive to limit the impact of this work on neighboring residents, surrounding businesses, and the broader community. We will also continue keeping the community informed through regular updates on its blog, www.WeAreWolverine.com, and through information at kiosks and in other locations accessible to the public.

As always, residents with questions are encouraged to contact Wolverine directly at HouseStreet@wwwinc.com or (616) 866-5627.

Cleanup Work to Begin This Week; White Pine Trail to be Temporarily Re-Routed

As we shared last week, Wolverine will be conducting cleanup work this fall at the site of its former tannery in Rockford. We also pledged to keep the community informed as the work progresses.  Consistent with this commitment, we want to let you know that workers will begin mobilizing over the next few days, bringing trailers, construction equipment, and supplies onto the site. Workers will also begin adjusting the fences to enclose the work areas, and will start to construct some of the temporary access roads shown on this map of the site.

As part of this work, it will be necessary to temporarily close the White Pine Trail along the length of the former tannery property.  We expect the closure to commence within the next week and last for the duration of the work.  During this time, trail traffic will be re-routed through Rockford as shown in red on the map below and here.  The timing and route are subject to change based on the final DNR permit that we expect to receive in the next few days.

Wolverine and its contractors will strive to limit the impact of this work on neighboring residents, surrounding businesses, and the broader community. We will also continue keeping the community informed through regular updates on its blog, www.WeAreWolverine.com, and through information at kiosks and in other locations accessible to the public.

As always, residents with questions are encouraged to contact Wolverine directly at HouseStreet@wwwinc.com or (616) 866-5627.

Trail detour map

Wolverine Worldwide to Conduct Cleanup Work at Former Tannery Site

Wolverine operated a tannery in downtown Rockford from the early 1890s until it was closed in 2009. The facility was then decommissioned and demolished, and environmental testing was conducted under EPA and MDEQ supervision. Wolverine has been working diligently with regulators during the past two years to conduct additional testing at the former tannery. These efforts have included more than 900 groundwater, surface water, pore water, sediment, soil, and vapor gas samples, along with the  installation of over 45 monitoring wells and more than 150 soil borings. Results of this testing were posted in November 2017 and March 2019.

This fall, based on the testing completed to-date, Wolverine will be excavating and removing certain sediments, soils, leather scraps, and hides from the former tannery property, the White Pine Trail, and the banks of the Rogue River. The work is depicted on the maps shown below and here, and is expected to include:

  • Excavation of sediments from two areas along the Rogue River
  • Excavation of soils from four locations south of Rum Creek
  • Excavation of soils, leather scraps, and hides from two areas north of Rum Creek
  • Backfilling excavation areas and stabilizing/restoring the banks of the Rogue River as needed, including plantings in the Spring

Wolverine is currently finalizing the selection of a contractor, obtaining permits, and preparing revised work plans and schedules for review and approval by the EPA, which will be on-site overseeing the work. We expect to begin in early October, with work continuing through the rest of the year. We will share a detailed schedule of all phases of the work once it has been finalized and approved.

As part of this cleanup and restoration, it will be necessary to temporarily close the White Pine Trail along the length of the former tannery property. During this closure, trail traffic will be rerouted through downtown Rockford as it has in the past, and part of the trail will be resurfaced. The timing and specific plans for this re-route are being finalized now and will be shared with the public as soon as possible.

During the course of the work, Wolverine and its contractors will strive to limit impacts on neighboring residents, surrounding businesses, and the broader community. Truck traffic routes will be posted and managed carefully, the site will be fenced, wash stations will be used for trucks and equipment leaving the site, and EPA-approved plans and procedures for air monitoring and health and safety will be in effect.

Wolverine will also strive to keep the community informed as the work progresses in the weeks and months ahead. Regular progress updates with more detailed information will be posted to Wolverine’s blog, www.WeAreWolverine.com, and information will also be available at kiosks and in other locations accessible to the public. In addition, residents with questions are encouraged to contact Wolverine directly at HouseStreet@wwwinc.com or (616) 866-5627.

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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