The Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Wolverine World Wide to dig PFAS-contaminated sediment from the Rogue River, according to our partners at mLIVE.
The Western Michigan Company must also excavate soil along the White Pine Trail in Rockford, where the shoemaker formerly operated a century-old leather tannery.
Addtionally, the EPA says Wolverine must start putting signs and kiosks near river access points to warn people about hazardous chemicals like chromium, mercury and PFAS in the area.
“There may be exposure risks that can’t necessarily wait for an overall plan to address the entire site,” said Jeff Kimble, a Region 5 EPA on-scene coordinator who is supervising Wolverine’s former tannery and dump site investigations in Kent County.
Existing handwashing stations and signs placed last year are inadequate, Kimble said. The signs face away from the trail and tell people to “wash hands” when exiting the river with no explanation.
Thad Beard, Rockford city manager, said that, while enhanced signage isn’t necessarily a great image for the city, it’s an important part of public communication.
“The reality is that we’re dealing with an environmental cleanup here and it’s important that is known to the public,” Beard said.
In Rockford, toxic substances like mercury, chromium and lead are confirmed at high levels in the groundwater and in sediment near spots where people regularly launch canoes and kayaks alongside a heavily-used White Pine Trail stretch.
The EPA-ordered work is happening parallel to Wolverine’s plan to stem the flow of groundwater contaminated with PFAS into the river, where the so-called “forever chemicals” are causing surface water foam to gather at the Rockford dam.
Beard said concern about the river foam has spiked recently following the state health department’s warning to avoid touching it.