Consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich wants West Michigan residents to join a class action suit against shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide.
Brockovich held a town hall meeting Saturday to let residents know what work she has done and plans to do for them.
Brockovich urges residents dealing with the groundwater contamination to join the class action lawsuit against shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide because “there is strength in numbers.”
“Big corporations can get away with a lot of their bad deeds because they can settle with one family, then maybe that family’s neighbor doesn’t want to take action. A class action suit helps bring folks together to take on big companies,” Brockovich said.
Wolverine Worldwide is believed to have caused the contamination by dumping toxic chemicals known as per-and polyflouralkyl substances – or PFAS – at several dump sites in Northern Kent County.
Brockovich, who has been involved in other class action suits regarding PFAS, says residents reached out to her with their concerns months ago.
“So I'm here today to give them permission to ask questions, to speak up, to be concerned, and to legitimize that,” she said.
Brockovich says residents can be deterred from taking action because they aren't experts.
“They don't have to be any of that to ask questions, to to be concerned about their child, and to know there is a toxic compound lurking around in their water,” she said.
While most resident at the town hall were glad to join the suit, some were a bit wary of the lawyers coming into town.
Amy Williams believes the lawyers are getting involved for more reasons than just helping people.
“I think the lawyers are all attracted to this national story and they want to get a piece of the action,” Williams said.
Williams and her family came to the town hall in shirts that read “We are PFOS’d off.”
Williams, who is battling stage four cancer, lives in Rockford. She says her family had been drinking well water for about 17 years before getting on municipal water.
“I just wonder if what I’m going through is from the water. And now my daughters grew up drinking that water, what’s their future?” she asked.
No representatives from Wolverine Worldwide spoke at the town hall, but the company did publish an article on its blog WeAreWolverine.com addressed to Brockovich.
The company wants her to know it has been working with state and local departments to address the water issue for months. Brockovich didn’t acknowledge the blog post at the meeting.