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

March 2019 Community Update

In our continuing effort to keep the community informed about Wolverine Worldwide’s efforts to address water quality issues in the area, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update to the community on the steps we have taken to-date and will be taking in 2019.

Wolverine’s Commitment to the Community

Wolverine Worldwide’s commitment to helping our friends, family, and neighbors address water quality issues in the area has never wavered.  From the start, we’ve taken proactive, aggressive actions to ensure all affected residents have access to safe drinking water.  In addition, we have worked closely with U.S. EPA, MDEQ, and other regulators to test sites for the presence of PFOA and PFOS, two of the chemicals from 3M Scotchgard™ used in Wolverine’s legacy operations.

Some of our other actions include:

  • Sampling more than 1,500 residential wells for PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS compounds
  • Providing proven, highly effective water filters to over 700 homeowners. For the latest information demonstrating the effectiveness of these filters, please click here
  • Monitoring over 500 whole house filters and resampling the water in those homes, some as often as weekly
  • Conducting thorough environmental investigations at the House Street and former Tannery properties – including drilling over 70 monitoring wells and collecting and analyzing over 1,350 soil samples, 350 groundwater samples, 100 sediment samples, 100 soil gas samples and 14 surface water samples. For more information about this work, including a description of recent testing and next steps, please click here
  • Designing and installing a filtration system at our former Tannery, to capture and treat groundwater before it reaches the Rogue River. For the latest information about this system and other actions we are taking, please click here
  • Meeting weekly with the State of Michigan and other regulators to analyze data and discuss next steps
  • Committing over $35 million to these efforts directly benefiting our community

Despite ongoing litigation and administrative actions, our collaborative relationship with regulators has not changed, and we continue working productively with them on solutions for our community.

Wolverine’s Commitment to Collaboration and Response to Litigation

At the same time Wolverine continues to work tirelessly on behalf of our community, we have repeatedly said that we will vigorously defend ourselves against litigation and take action to ensure that all involved parties – including 3M and our insurers – take responsibility for this matter.  Most recently, for example, Wolverine filed a lawsuit in federal court against 3M, which developed, tested, manufactured and sold Scotchgard™ to Wolverine and millions of others for decades, yet has repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility for the consequences.

One subject that has come up is a Plainfield Township plan to extend its municipal water system to certain homes in the area.  Wolverine has said from the start that we intend to be part of developing water quality solutions for our community – and our actions to-date have backed up these words.  Whether these solutions include the extension of municipal water, and whether Plainfield Township or a different entity would be the supplier, however, has not yet been decided.  Those decisions will be based on facts and data that are still being gathered, as well as discussions with regulators and other involved parties – not through rhetoric and grandstanding by Township officials.

Finally, we firmly believe all parties – including 3M – must be involved in discussing and developing solutions.  Far from representing a change in position, as Township officials have claimed, this has been Wolverine’s position from the start, which we have expressed publicly, privately, and in court by suing 3M and our insurers.

Wolverine’s Next Steps

Over the coming months, we will continue working hard every day on behalf of our friends, family, and neighbors in the community, and working collaboratively with regulators and other involved parties on next steps.  Additional information will be posted on our blog, WeAreWolverine.com, as it becomes available, and in the meantime please feel free to reach out to us directly at (616) 866-5627 or HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

Wolverine Worldwide Sues 3M For Concealing Information About Scotchgard and Causing Environmental Issues

Today, Wolverine filed a lawsuit in federal court against 3M, which developed, tested, manufactured, and sold ScotchgardTM to Wolverine and millions of others for decades, but has repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility for the impact of ScotchgardTM.  Wolverine also called for the State of Michigan to sue 3M, as other states have already done, and as Governor Snyder asked for earlier this year.  In addition, last week Wolverine sued its insurers, who have refused to honor their policies and participate in the defense and remediation efforts that Wolverine has been leading for over 18 months.

Even while Wolverine is taking these necessary legal actions, its commitment to helping our friends, family, and neighbors remains steadfast.  Over the past 18 months we have:

  • Sampled over 1,500 residential wells and installed more than 70 monitoring wells;
  • Offered bottled drinking water to every home being sampled;
  • Provided over 500 whole-house filters and over 200 point-of-use filters that are proven to eliminate PFOA and PFOS, two of the chemicals contained in Scotchgard; and
  • Worked at an accelerated pace with the MDEQ and EPA at the Company’s House Street disposal site and former Tannery site to fully determine the possible sources and extent of PFOA and PFOS.

Wolverine’s actions today related to 3M and the State of Michigan are fully consistent with what Wolverine has said from the start – that all involved parties must be involved in discussing and developing solutions.

To read the Company’s press release and its lawsuit against 3M, please click the links below.

Wolverine Worldwide Sues 3M For Concealing Information About Scotchgard and Causing Environmental Issues

Wolverine World Wide, Inc. vs. 3M Company

Update on discussions with Plainfield Township, State of Michigan

Wolverine always has been and remains committed to the community, as evidenced by its actions over the past 18 months.  Wolverine has installed over 500 proven, highly effective whole-house filters and over 200 point of use filters that virtually eliminate any presence of PFOA and PFOS.  In addition, we continue to provide Culligan drinking water to hundreds of homes.  Finally, we’ve worked at an accelerated pace at our House Street property, former Tannery, and the surrounding areas, sampling over 1,500 residential wells, installing over 70 monitoring wells, collecting hundreds of soil and groundwater samples, and working closely with the DEQ and EPA to fully determine the possible sources and extent of PFOA and PFOS.

This commitment carries through to discussing water quality issues and additional long term water solutions for the community, including the Township’s proposal for an extension of its municipal water system.  Wolverine Worldwide has been and remains at the table to discuss these issues.  This is a position we have held since day one, and any suggestion that Wolverine is unwilling to negotiate, has stepped away from the table, or has recently changed its position is simply untrue.

From the beginning, however, we have also said that multiple parties contributed to the water quality issues in our community, and that any solution must include all relevant parties. We made this position clear in a February 23, 2018, letter to the Township saying, “We wholeheartedly agree with the Township that many parties contributed to the water quality issues facing our community, and believe that any long-term solution must involve all those parties.” In addition, both Plainfield Township and the State have recognized the role that other parties have played in area water quality issues, and the need to involve those parties.

Negotiating through the media is counterproductive, and that is why we have tried to remain silent about the status of the discussions.  Even so, through our words and our actions, we’ve demonstrated that Wolverine is committed to continuing its efforts to work with the experts, gather the right data, involve the right parties, and find the best solutions for our community.