Wolverine sues 3M over PFAS contamination

Associated Press • Dec 19, 2018 at 5:24 PM

ROCKFORD — Wolverine Worldwide has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Scotchgard-maker 3M for potential damages caused to some Kent County residents whose drinking water was polluted with toxic chemicals.

The shoe giant filed the lawsuit Wednesday, Dec. 19, against 3M, which developed, tested, manufactured and sold Scotchgard -- the substance containing chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, that are alleged to have caused environmental pollution and groundwater contamination underneath Wolverine’s properties and in surrounding areas.

“3M made it, 3M sold it at a profit to thousands of companies and millions of consumers for decades, and 3M can no longer run from its responsibilities to Wolverine, the community, and the state of Michigan for the impacts of Scotchgard,” said Blake Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide CEO and chairman, in a press release.

“Wolverine has already demonstrated its commitment to helping our friends, family and neighbors address groundwater concerns by conducting extensive water testing and providing highly effective water filters. Now, we are taking necessary steps to ensure that 3M is held accountable for its conduct and participates in the remediation efforts we have been leading for more than 18 months.”

Kent County Circuit Judge George J. Quist ruled in June that Wolverine could argue that the Minnesota manufacturing giant, 3M, was at fault for any or all damages, which would lessen the burden of any potential payout to the more than 400 people suing the company.

For decades, Wolverine purchased Scotchgard from 3M and used it to make shoes repellent to water and stains.

The key ingredient of Scotchgard for years was perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS. That’s one of several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, found in the drinking water of homes where Wolverine dumped tannery waste laden with the chemical leftovers of Scotchgard use.

Ingestion of PFAS has been linked in human studies to some cancers, thyroid disorders, elevated cholesterol and other diseases.

Wolverine alleges that it disposed of waste from its application process consistent with 3M’s recommendations and practices, and that 3M knew for years that chemicals in Scotchgard posed environmental risks.

The shoe company said 3M publicly announced a change in its formula in 2000 to eliminate PFOA and PFOS from Scotchgard, but then continued to sell the old formula for two more years, and maintained that the chemicals posed no environmental or health risks.

Wolverine also filed a notice in federal court Wednesday urging the state of Michigan to add 3M as a defendant in the state’s existing lawsuit against Wolverine.

A copy of the lawsuit is available on the company’s “We Are Wolverine” blog.

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