Shoe Production PFAS Contamination Leads to $113 Million Settlement
Wolverine Worldwide operated a shoe making factory in Kent County, Michigan. As part of the shoe production process, chemicals were used to create waterproof material. These chemicals? Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
PFAS, for short, the chemicals are known to have adverse effects on human health, including elevated risks of certain cancers, infertility and more.
Additionally, PFAS have been dubbed “forever chemicals” in that they do not break down and can be present for hundreds of years.
Soon, homeowners in the Kent County area learned their drinking water had been contaminated with PFAS and in 2017 filed a lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide for its role in this contamination.
When the contamination was discovered, residents began getting regular blood tests. One resident showed an increase to five million parts-per-trillion in her blood.
Wolverine Worldwide sued its parent company, 3M. The chemicals, it said, originated with them.
3M agreed to pay a $55 million obligation to the shoe factory stemming from this lawsuit. Wolverine agreed to pay more than $69 million to homeowners whose wells were contaminated by their connection to municipal water systems.
As per the parameters of this proposed settlement, additional payments could be made to property owners who 1) are eligible to be connected to municipal water; 2) received filters for their wells; 3) had no filtration in place where PFAS levels tested below state standards; and 4) own vacant properties.
Nearly 1,700 people could be eligible according to court filings.
Scorecard: 3M and Wolverine Worldwide are on the hook for $113 million, as well as responsible to maintain water filters and continue testing.
Takeaway: Businesses, primarily manufacturers, must be aware of their environmental and health impact, lest they be on the receiving end of a hefty lawsuit. &