ROCKFORD, Mich. — Michigan officials say the state’s investigation into old tannery waste disposal has expanded.
The state Department of Environmental Quality said it’s now investigating 75 sites for toxic industrial chemicals that were used by Wolverine World Wide to waterproof shoes.
The department, which is using tips from the public to compile a list of sites, has referred about 26 locations to the shoe manufacturer for further testing, department spokesperson Mel Brown said.
The latest testing area includes about 100 homes in Rockford. Private well tests indicate that sludge may have been used as fertilizer in the area, and there may have been waste dumping in a local gravel pit, according to the department.
Brown has urged residents to drink bottled water until testing is completed.
“We’d rather err on the side of caution with drinking water while we’re getting these test results back,” Brown said.
Wolverine has distributed bottled water to residents as it conducts tests.
Scientists said the toxins are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which is a class of chemicals that has been tied to cancer, thyroid problems and other diseases. The chemicals can also be found in firefighting foams, cleaning products, household cookware and carpets, and some food packaging.
Snyder has created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team to oversee the response to contaminants found across the state. Retired Michigan Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs will lead the team and help coordinate the response among local, state and federal agencies.
“This team will be instrumental in establishing protocols and best practices that will allow all partners to comprehensively address these contaminants across Michigan,” Snyder said.