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

Wolverine Continues to Work with the State to Develop Long-Term Water Solutions; Welcomes Plainfield Township Input

Wolverine Worldwide has consistently said that all options remain on the table related to resolving the water quality issues facing our community, and that it is open to a comprehensive solution based on the right data and involving all necessary parties.

Wolverine’s commitment to being part of a long-term solution is apparent from its actions – it has paid for over 1,500 groundwater tests, provided bottled water to over 1,200 homes, installed over 70 monitoring wells, and installed over 500 whole-house filters and over 100 point-of-use filters.

The vast majority of these filters are in homes with no detections of PFOA/PFOS or with levels far below the conservative 70 parts per trillion (ppt) level set by the EPA and the State for PFOA/PFOS.  In addition, we recently committed $40 million towards our continuing efforts to address water quality in the area.

These proactive steps have ensured that residents have safe, high quality water that exceeds the safety levels set by the EPA and the State of Michigan.  They have also provided all parties the time and opportunity to gather the necessary data, involve the appropriate parties, and identify and implement the right long-term solutions for our community.  Wolverine has been working diligently and cooperatively through this process with the State for nearly a year, and last month the State filed a lawsuit seeking to formalize and solidify the timeline and next steps.

We understand Plainfield Township is considering a resolution tonight to try to become a party to the State’s lawsuit.  It is possible an expansion of the Township’s municipal water system could be part of a comprehensive plan, along with other solutions used around the country, like drilling deeper wells and using filters similar to those Wolverine has already provided.  Given this, we welcome the Township’s input into our discussions with the State about long-term solutions.

Due to the involvement of the State and the process it has initiated, however, we are not in a position to move forward with separate, premature discussions with the Township on its proposal to begin construction of a municipal water extension this summer.  This would short circuit the State’s involvement and our responsibility to them. It also would not be based on the right data, would not take into account the significant water solutions Wolverine has already implemented, and would not involve the right parties.

We’ve said from the start that we will see this issue through to the end, and we are committed to providing the residents of our community the confidence they deserve in their water.  To accomplish this, we will continue our collaborative and expedited efforts to develop long-term water solutions for the community and, as appropriate, we welcome the Township to participate in our discussions and actions with the State on this topic.

We started this blog to speak directly to the community and to help keep the facts straight, and we intend to do just that.  Any residents with questions are encouraged to contact Wolverine directly at (616) 866-5627 or HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

We Are Wolverine.

Wolverine Remains Committed to the Community During Litigation Process

Wolverine Worldwide would like to underscore its commitment to developing long-term groundwater water solutions for the community.  We’ve said from the start that we plan to see this issue through to the end, and our goal continues to be providing the residents of our hometown the confidence they deserve in their water.  We believe our voluntary and diligent actions to date are evidence to our past and on-going efforts to “do the right thing.”

These actions include providing water to residents as they wait for test results, paying for more than 1,500 groundwater tests, installing over 70 monitoring wells, and installing more than 500 whole-home filters – the vast majority of which are in homes with non-detects for PFOA/PFAS or with levels well below the Michigan criteria and federal advisories of 70 ppt for PFOA/PFOS.  In addition, we continue to work diligently with local, state and federal regulators, and recently announced that we’ve pledged $40 million towards our continuing efforts to address these issues for our community and our friends, families, and neighbors who live here.

At the same time, we’re entering a new chapter, and we are forced to defend ourselves in various legal proceedings.  While we intend to remain a good partner and corporate citizen, and ultimately to be a part of the solution to the issues facing our community, we will simultaneously protect and vigorously defend Wolverine against these lawsuits.  For a company that has been around for over 140 years and both a leader and contributor to this community, no one should expect anything less from us.

The bottom line is that many of the allegations made by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the state court lawsuits are misleading and simply not supported by the facts.  There is no imminent danger to the health of anyone involved in these lawsuits, and the vast majority of these plaintiffs had safe drinking water even before Wolverine voluntarily provided them with alternate water solutions.  Those that exceeded the Michigan criteria and federal advisories of 70 ppt for PFOA/PFOS have all been provided bottled water and/or water filters at Wolverine’s expense.

Wolverine also believes certain issues raised in the federal class action lawsuit should be addressed before proceeding with individual state court lawsuits and, because of this, we have asked the Kent County Circuit Court to put the individual state court lawsuits on hold.

We started this blog to speak directly to the community and to help keep the facts straight, and we intend to do just that.  Any residents with questions are encouraged to contact Wolverine directly at (616) 866-5627 or HouseStreet@wwwinc.com.

We Are Wolverine.