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Wolverine Worldwide agrees to pay nearly $70 million for municipal water line installation

Wolverine World Wide Rockford tannery photo
Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge has approved a settlement with between Wolverine Worldwide, and Plainfield and Algoma townships, after the local shoemaker faced a lawsuit that blamed the company for contaminating the drinking water supplies of hundreds of homes in the area with toxic chemicals. 

It was Wolverine Worldwide’s disposal of toxic chemicals nearly 60 years ago that contaminated the private drinking water wells of hundreds of homes in Plainfield and Algoma Township. The discovery of polyflourinated chemicals, commonly referred to as PFAS, made national news and outraged a number of homeowners, many who had been drinking the water for years.

Plainfield Township Attorneys argued that the only solution would be to install municipal water lines to those homes, and that Wolverine should be the ones to that foot the bill. Wolverine initially agreed, but then changed its mind, refusing to pay for it, and arguing that home filtration systems would suffice. Plainfield Township officials called it then “a stab in the back.”

A federal judge then ordered Wolverine Worldwide and township officials to settle their differences, and the shoemaker ultimately agreed to provide $69.5 million over a multi-year period towards the installation of municipal water lines to over 1000 homes in Algoma and Plainfield Township.

Plainfield Township Attorney Doug Van Essen says it’s a victory.

“This is a win for the people of Plainfield and Algoma Townships who are affected,” Plainfield Township Attorney Doug Van Essen said. “We have always believed that municipal water was the best solution for our residents.”

The approval by U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff in the Western District of Michigan means work should begin this spring and take about five years to complete.

In its statement, Wolverine Worldwide said the deal “provides expedient and expansive relief, and is in the best interests of affected homeowners, the surrounding communities and the state of Michigan.”

They did not however, admit liability.