Former tannery workers: Wolverine Worldwide isn’t there for us

ROCKFORD, MICH. – Wolverine Worldwide should be more proactive in caring for former employees at its tannery, in wake of the contamination of private wells in northern Kent County by chemicals used in the shoe making process, ex-workers told WZZM 13.
According to MDEQ, of the 614 test results received in the House Street sample area, 180 homes tested positive for PFAS, but below the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.
Wolverine Worldwide used Scotchgard containing PFOS/PFOA, in the PFAS family, in its color mills.
"We weren’t told about Scotchgard, PFAS, anything," Avery said.
The letter confirmed that 3M conducted medical studies on employees “occupationally exposed to PFOS for over 20 years.” The study said the subjects has PFAS in their blood at levels more than 100 times those who were not occupationally exposed to the chemicals, but maintained the evidence did “not suggest any human health effect associated with [the results].” Officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said PFAS is present in the blood of most people, and the health effects of exposure to the contaminant are largely unknown.
“We really don’t know as much as we’d like to know about this family of chemicals.” There are areas of the U.S. population, like the Ohio River Valley, that have been medically studied because of extreme exposure to PFAS chemicals, Wells said.
“It was not a clean place to work in,” Koomen said.
The ammonia reading exceeded MDEQ’s drinking water criteria by 230 times.
“That’s how I think a lot of it got into the ground because the pipes, the drains might’ve leaked and just went into the dirt.” The contamination at the tannery land in Rockford is more of a threat to organisms in the Rogue River than to human health from drinking water, said David O’Donnell, a field operations supervisor for MDEQ.
But you just didn’t do it because you [were] afraid of being let go or put on a job you didn’t want to be on – that did happen if people complained.” In response, Wolverine Worldwide said, “Wolverine has always attempted to provide its employees with a good working environment, and to address questions and issues promptly.” The former tannery employees said they want Wolverine Worldwide to show more accountability and look into their health concerns.

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