The flood of Wolverine PFAS pollution lawsuits has begun
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The first of what’s expected to be many lawsuits has been filed against Wolverine World Wide, alleging the company turned a blind eye to an old toxic dump that has subsequently made people sick and hurt property values.
The first plaintiffs to file against Wolverine are Theodore Ryfiak, Melvin and Marlene Nylaan, and Michael and Laura Metz, all of Belmont.
Detroit and Chicago area firms are also signing local clients.
The four-count suit alleges Wolverine violated the Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act by, among other things, failing to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable outcomes like groundwater contamination from an unlined sludge dump entering the drinking water of nearby residents.
Wolverine also violated the Michigan Environmental Protection Act by knowingly polluting groundwater when it put hazardous substances like PFAS arsenic, chromium and mercury, as well as 55-gallon waste drums, leather scraps and other tannery debris onto bare ground on and around the House Street dump, the suit alleges.
"That’s been against the law for nearly 100 years."
Tensions between the company, township officials and neighbors resulted in a 1965 lawsuit that ended with a settlement allowing Wolverine to continue using the dump.
The suits allege Wolverine lied to separate property owners who called the company to ask if sludge was ever dumped at House Street and if there were safety issues, and only took the proper steps to investigate wells to the south after the Belmont Armory found PFAS in May — months after the first well testing occurred northeast of the dump.
Varnum represents some clients who bought property just prior to the dump investigation becoming public and are at less risk for illness than neighbors who were drinking well water near the dump site for many years.
He expects the bulk of cases to be filed in the next two months.