LANSING — State Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) has sent a letter to state Rep. Joseph Graves (R-Argentine Township), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight, to request a hearing on the hazardous water contamination caused by the Wolverine World Wide tannery in Kent County. Toxic chemicals produced by chemical manufacturer 3M and released by the shoe-making company during the waterproofing process have leeched into the groundwater and pose a serious threat to human health in the area.

“The chemicals used in the tanning process are known to cause certain kinds of cancers, birth defects, thyroid and liver disease, high cholesterol and other serious health risks, and these chemicals have found their way into families’ drinking water,” Rep. Brinks said. “Parents need to know if it is safe to give their children a drink of water from the tap. And if it’s not safe, then the companies that polluted their water must be held accountable.”

The chemicals involved are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which stay in the human body for 21-49 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water advisory threshold for two of the PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, is 70 parts per trillion (ppt). One area resident whose well was tested showed 38,000 ppt of the contaminant in her water.

“Sadly, our state knows all too well what can happen when drinking water is contaminated. We learned from Flint that it can lead to learning difficulties, health impairments, disease and even death,” Rep. Brinks said. “We must learn from that experience and take our water quality seriously. That is why I’m requesting that Rep. Graves and the Oversight Committee hold a hearing and take the testimony of Wolverine World Wide CEO Blake W. Krueger, 3M Chief Sustainability Officer Jean Bennington Sweeney, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether, and other scientific and health experts.”