As the world continues to transition from toxic chemical-based production of everyday goods to more sustainable versions made from safer, renewable resources, more information is coming to light about the dangers of the old way of doing things, and the many ways that companies are wreaking havoc on the environment and people’s health.
Case in point: a recent scandal in a rural Michigan area that has many people wondering about connections to the infamous Flint water scandal, this time involving a popular shoe company that has been dumping hazardous materials that persist in the environment for decades.
And according to local news reports, the dumping has taken a heavy toll on local residents, culminating in recent tests of a local town’s water supply that have many people and wondering just how much damage has been done to both human health and the environment that could have easily been prevented.
Drinking Water Chemicals Found At “540 Times the EPA Limit”
The company in question, Wolverine Shoes, has been dumping tannery chemicals since the 1970s in Rockford, Michigan, and in the city of Belmont just a few short miles to the southwest, a water crisis has emerged in large part because of it.
Tests have shown that levels of two tannery chemicals, perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA), in the residential drinking water on one property near a Wolverine dump site were a whopping 540 times what the EPA considers to be safe, according to this article from the Michigan-based website MLive.com.
Back in Rockford, home to the major dumping site from the company detailed by MLive, a middle school was forced to shut off its drinking water due to the presence of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, also known as PFCs), toxic compounds which almost certainly came from the shoe company’s dumping site.
They’ve been showing up in drinking water wells throughout the area, and in Belmont, site of the aforementioned extremely high levels, the chemicals are believed to be responsible for the death of at least one man.
“You lose your husband and it’s the worst thing on Earth,” said Sandy Stelt, whose husband Joel passed away at the age of 61 due to liver cancer in March 2016 according to MLive.com.
A little over a year after her husband’s passing, Wolverine Worldwide shoe company officials knocked on her door and gave her a piece of horrific news: her well water had been poisoned with chemicals linked to liver problems and other maladies.
Local residents continue to wonder whether they might be next in line for serious health problems, as detailed in the MLive article.
Much of the contamination has come from the dumping of Scotchgard, a fabric protector that repels water and stains used by Wolverine and developed by the adhesive company 3M.
But the dumping of these and other materials has created a serious issue in an area where natural beauty and simple living is usually the focus.
Residents in the area are receiving water filtration systems from the company, but many of them are wondering whether the company is doing enough in light of the widespread harm that has been caused.
According to Sandy Stelt, the recommended safe level for PFOS compounds is 70 parts per trillion, while Harvard researchers suggest the number should be just one part per trillion.
Near where Stelt lives, the most recent measurement was a sky-high 38,000 parts per trillion.
You can watch a video of her story below.
You can also view a response from the Wolverine World Wide VP from Mlive.com below: