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Wolverine’s Decades-Old Toxic Tannery Sludge Dumping Could Lead to Lawsuits

Footwear company Wolverine World Wide faces potential lawsuits from residents in Michigan related to toxic tannery sludge recently found in an unlined Michigan landfill. The sludge was apparently dumped by the company into the landfill during the 1960s. Residents in the communities near the two newly discovered dump sites have filed a notice of intent to sue to cover clean-up costs and potential medical expenses, according to Waste Dive.

Local health officials have said that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the waste can cause cancer and other health issues; Wolverine has said to have been cooperative so far, and has been purchasing bottled water for residents as a precaution, though no PFCs have been found as of yet.

When a second Wolverine waste dump site was found in western Michigan, residents became worried that chemical-laced debris may be in a wider area than previously thought, writes the Associated Press.

The discovery of toxic chemicals like PFC near older, closed landfills is a not-uncommon occurrence that can lead to expensive remediation processes. PFCs were once used in Scotchgard, a waterproofing product Wolverine used on shoe leather (per Michigan Public Radio).

At least two clothing manufacturers have vowed to begin phasing out the use of PFCs in their products in recent months. In February, Gore Fabrics said it will eliminate PFCs of environmental concern from its products by 2023. Gore, which supplies products including jackets and shoes to major outdoor apparel makers including Patagonia and The North Face, calls the move an “important milestone in its long-term journey towards continuously reducing the environmental footprint of its products throughout their full life cycle.” Environmental groups including Greenpeace have targeted Gore and other companies’ use of PFCs, which are commonly used to improve water resistance in high-performance clothing.

British retailer Tesco has also committed to phasing out use of chemicals like PFC from its supply chain for its F&F line of clothing and footwear by 2020. Eleven hazardous chemical groups including synthetic azo dyes and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are being given priority, the retailer said.

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