Michigan Shoemaker in PFOA Water Contamination Disaster

Did Wolverine World Wide turn a blind eye to an old toxic dump site that has subsequently poisoned the local water supply for generations hence? Through their reckless and negligent actions, people in the community became very sick and property values plummeted.

For roughly a hundred years, Wolverine World Wide, the parent company of Hush Puppies and some other well-known brands, operated a shoe factory near Grand Rapids. At that site, the company used polyfluoroalkyl acid (PFOA) and other related substances to waterproof its shoes. Now, roughly seventy-five local water wells have PFOA levels well above government safety thresholds. The company has provided some bottled water and other minimal services to area residents but has refused to clean up the site, claiming that PFOA’s health effects are unproven.

It should come as no surprise that Wolverine does not want to take responsibility for the groundwater poisoning. The company has released statements that they do not comment on ongoing or potential litigation. And the lawsuits have begun with allegations that Wolverine violated Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. There have been 55-gallon waste drums, leather scraps and other tannery debris on the bare ground around the community.

There are other concerns as well. During the summer, a pond near the Wolverine landfill is a popular swimming hole for children.

PFOA’s Side Effects

This action comes on the heels of an Environmental Protection Agency order directing the company to address issues in the landfill stemming from PFOA and other contaminants, including chromium, mercury, arsenic, and ammonia. Such widespread contamination is clear evidence of negligence, as outlined below.

PFOA is the primary concern, mostly because of the excessively high levels in local water supplies. This substance causes a number of serious health conditions, including:

  • Testicular cancer,
  • Liver disease,
  • Kidney cancer, and
  • Thyroid disease.

PFOA also poisons fish and other wildlife. That’s a very significant concern in places like Michigan where both area residents and many tourists enjoy the outdoors. There are some other adverse impacts as well, such as diminished property values and the higher taxes often associated with expensive cleanups.

When is a Lawsuit the Answer?

Sometimes, the responsible company does the right thing and pays for things like survey costs and cleanup costs in addition to compensation for area residents. But generally, that’s not the case. In these instances, a lawsuit forces the company to make amends.

Moreover, in a large class-action lawsuit, the company usually must set up services for residents, such as educational resources for the children who must deal with developmental delays.

Because of the sheer number of victims, damages in these cases are usually quite large. Compensation is available for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Large punitive damage awards are quite common as well.

PFOA water poisoning touches thousands of families around the country. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle environmental tort cases on a nationwide basis.