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PFAS cleanup in Rogue River will have to wait until 2024

The Rogue River near its confluence with the Grand River in Kent County
Grand Valley Metropolitan Council
The Rogue River near its confluence with the Grand River in Kent County

A plan to clean up PFAS chemicals from the Rogue River in West Michigan has been delayed until 2024.

Rockford-based shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide used the chemicals at its Belmont tannery.

The company was supposed to start construction of a remediation system on the Rogue River in September, but Wolverine now says the planned system wouldn't have worked, and it needs to design a new one.

The state issued a violation to Wolverine Worldwide in October after officials learned the company would not meet the September deadline.

The PFAS chemicals have been linked to an array of health problems, including cancer.

Karen Vorce, a supervisor for the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy in Grand Rapids, acknowledged that local residents are getting frustrated by the delay in the cleanup.

"We really started noticing things were not adding up when the remediation system building was supposed to be starting to be constructed, and that work was not being done on site," she said. “We do experience frustrations as well. I think its everyone’s goal to have a system put in as soon as possible.”

In a blog post, Wolverine Worldwide explained the delay. "Tests showed that our initial system plan and design, calling for 22 extraction wells on the property, likely would not function as intended and meet the performance standards for the system," the company said.

"Designing, installing, and tuning a groundwater extraction system is an iterative, complex process. We know there will need to be further adjustments along the way, but we want to do everything we can to do it well the first time."

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