95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PFAS cleanup in Rogue River will have to wait until 2024


Wolverine Worldwide submits new system to EGLE after previous one "ineffective"

Long awaited plans to clean PFAS chemicals from the Rogue River will now have to until 2024; the delay comes after a proposed plan by Wolverine Worldwide has been scrapped for a new one.

(EGLE) to start construction of a remediation system on the Rogue River in September. That did not happen, forcing the state department to issue the Rockford based shoemaker a violation, while telling the company to hurry up.

Karen Vorce is EGLE’s remediation division district supervisor in Grand Rapids.

“We stated things were not adding up when the remediation system building was supposed to be starting to be constructed, and that work was not being done on site.” Vorce said. “What is going on.”

Vorce says, the original system’s design called for 20-plus high-volume extraction wells that would suck PFAS-tainted groundwater from its tannery site in Belmont before it enters the river.

Test runs on the system however weren’t generating the results expected—meaning, the process simply didn’t work well enough, and so Wolverine Worldwide engineers had to go back to the drawing board.

Now a new, proposed plan under state review calls for a groundwater trench system with limited deeper extraction wells.

Vorce says, the idea has worked in other locations in the country. But she understands that area residents are getting frustrated by the delay.

“We experience frustrations as well,” Vorce said. “I think its everyone’s goal to have a system put in as soon as possible.”

PFAS, known as “forever chemicals” are found in waterproofing agents that Wolverine Worldwide used at its Belmont Tannery for decades. Due to improper disposal of its waste, the chemicals contaminated the groundwater near the site and over time, made its way into the Rogue River. The chemicals, if ingested, can cause a host of health problems including cancer.

Public comment for the new plan runs through January 27th. If approved, construction would begin this October. The system would be fully operational in May of 2024.

Related Content