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WMU students tour PFAS contaminated site, learn about its complex geology and hydrogeology

August 21, 2019

WMU hydrogeology field course student tour PFAS contaminated siteStaff from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), took Western Michigan University (WMU) Hydrogeology Field Course students on a tour of Wolverine World Wide's (Wolverine) House Street Disposal Site in Belmont. The House Street Disposal Site was used by Wolverine to dispose of their tannery wastes and sludges beginning in the early 1940s until 1970.

The tour was coordinated by staff from EGLE, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Wolverine's environmental consultant, GZA Geo Environmental, Inc. EGLE and USEPA have been coordinating their investigations of Wolverine tannery pollution found in the Rockford and Belmont area. EGLE is overseeing the investigation of the per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, and USEPA is focusing on other contamination (heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds).

Professor Matt Reeves, along 16 of his WMU Hydrogeology Field Course students and two teaching assistants, wanted to see the site firsthand and learn about the complex geology and hydrogeology of the site and surrounding area. The students were able to observe the various areas on the property where historic waste disposal occurred in unlined trenches and lagoons. Students asked some great questions of EGLE staff about PFAS behavior in the environment. High concentrations of PFAS have been found at, and migrating from, the House Street Disposal Site. 

There is still a huge need for additional work and research to be done regarding the chemistry, remediation, and environmental fate and transport of PFAS. EGLE hopes that by engaging students and showing them real life examples of PFAS contamination, future generations of scientists will be inspired to be a part of the solution to PFAS contamination across the country and world.

For more information on the House Street Disposal Site, visit the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) website.

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