LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she hopes the state’s first PFAS settlement, with a Livingston County plastics company, will lead other known polluters to clean up and pay up.
Among those companies she hopes to settle with: California-based FKI Hardware, which owns nine former Keeler Brass plants in West Michigan. The state sued the company last year in Kent County Circuit Court, alleging its former plant on Godfrey Avenue SW in Grand Rapids posed “imminent and substantial” danger to the public.
“It’s a really simple policy, right, you know,” Nessel said Monday during a press conference. “You made the mess, you clean it up. The end. That’s what we’re looking for. And so hopefully, with this settlement, other companies step forward and decide that they’re going to take responsibility for the mess they made.”
Nessel announced Monday that Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. had agreed to clean up and pay for the PFAS contamination it left in the soil and groundwater in Livingston County.
The company will also create a fund that will include enough money to cover remediation costs for 30 years. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will oversee the work.
The AG sued Asahi Kasei in January 2020 over PFAS contamination at its former site in Brighton, between Detroit and Lansing.
“I am pleased with this resolution, and I look forward to seeing the important investigation and work get underway,” Nessel said in a news release. “The agreed-upon framework for compliance at this site requires work under an enforceable schedule and is a favorable outcome for Michigan.”
Asahi also agreed to pay $175,000 to cover the state’s litigation costs.
PFAS is a class of man-made chemicals that have been found in all sorts of products from Teflon to Scotchgard and a type of firefighting foam used in fighting plane fires. The chemicals have leached in to water systems and made their way into people’s blood, where they remain for years. They have been linked to certain types of cancers.
Asahi is among dozens of companies sued by the state over PFAS since 2020 in state and federal courts. The suits include big names, like 3M, which makes Scotchgard, and DuPont, which makes Teflon. Nessel alleged the companies knew PFAS was dangerous but didn’t take steps to keep it out of the environment. The state says the companies are responsible for some of the 234 known PFAS sites across Michigan.
PFAS was first discovered in northern Kent County in 2017. Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide had used PFAS-laced Scotchgard for decades to waterproof shoes and had dumped tainted sludge in places like the House Street dump in Plainfield Township.
In early 2020, Wolverine agreed to pay Algoma and Plainfield townships $69.5 million to extend city water to about 1,000 homes with contaminated wells. Also in early 2020, Scotchgard-maker 3M settled a federal lawsuit by agreeing to pay Wolverine $55 million to deal with PFAS in Kent County. In all, Wolverine reported spending an estimated $113 million — including the $69.5 million settlement — dealing with PFAS. 3M’s payment meant it essentially split that cost.
Then, last year, a federal judge approved a $54 million settlement in a class-action suit filed against Wolverine and 3M on behalf of about 1,700 residents in northern Kent County.
—News 8 digital executive producer Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.