Wolverine World Wide Inc. is up against a batch of more than 90 lawsuits related to its waste management practices and use of 3M’s former Scotchgard ingredients that some have claimed are harmful and may have contaminated drinking water and damaged properties in parts of Michigan.
Among the latest filings are one that came last week from six Michigan families alleging that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) used in the Rockford, Mich.-based firm’s tannery sludge caused drinking water well contamination, which resulted in injuries and property damages.
A class action suit by property owners and residents of Kent County, Mich. in December — against Wolverine, 3M (the maker of the chemicals in question), Waste Management Inc. and Waste Management of Michigan Inc. — further alleges that PFAS exposure has been associated with serious health problems, such as increased risk of cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, immunological abnormalities, and developmental and reproductive effects.
“3M never manufactured or disposed of PFC-containing materials in Michigan. Under Michigan law, we believe 3M has no liability for any damages allegedly caused by Wolverine’s manufacturing and waste disposal practices,” 3M said in a statement regarding the December litigation. “We believe this lawsuit lacks merit.”
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In response to the rampant litigation it currently faces — on Monday, the Michigan Plainfield Township board voted 6-0 to join a state lawsuit against Wolverine — the owner of Sperry, Saucony, Merrell and other popular shoe brands said it believes its “voluntary and diligent actions to date are evidence to our past and on-going efforts to ‘do the right thing.’”
“We’ve said from the start that we plan to see this issue through to the end, and our goal continues to be providing the residents of our hometown the confidence they deserve in their water,” the company said. “[Our] actions include providing water to residents as they wait for test results, paying for more than 1,500 groundwater tests, installing over 70 monitoring wells, and installing more than 500 whole-home filters — the vast majority of which are in homes with non-detects for PFOA/PFAS or with levels well below the Michigan criteria and federal advisories of 70 ppt for PFOA/PFOS.”
In addition, the company said it continues to work with local, state and federal regulators, pledging $40 million towards “our continuing efforts to address these issues for our community and our friends, families, and neighbors who live here.”
“The bottom line is that many of the allegations made by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the state court lawsuits are misleading and simply not supported by the facts,” the company added. “There is no imminent danger to the health of anyone involved in these lawsuits, and the vast majority of these plaintiffs had safe drinking water even before Wolverine voluntarily provided them with alternate water solutions.”