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Class Action Lawsuit, Corporate Polluters and Erin Brockovich bring out hundreds to forum

December 18, 2017

On Saturday, hundreds of people came to Comstock Park High School to hear environmental activist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.

The forum was hosted by three law firms, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, Miller Law and Weitz & Luxenberg. The forum was designed to present information on a class action lawsuit filed jointly by these three law firms, a lawsuit that was filed on December 1st. A Press Release by the three law firms states:

A national team of law firms today announced a new class action lawsuit against Wolverine WorldWide, 3M Corporation and Waste Management Inc. for dumping toxic waste and polluting groundwater in Belmont, Rockford and other areas in Kent County. This is the first environmental class action lawsuit filed against these companies, and it seeks immediate blood testing, monitoring, and damages for residents who have been harmed by the pollution.

The fact that all three corporations – Wolverine Worldwide, 3M and Waste Management Inc – were the targets of the lawsuit was encouraging to many, since it recognizes the fact that while Wolverine Worldwide used the toxic chemicals which now plague area residents, 3M and Waste Management Inc also are complicit in the contamination. To read the full complaint filed in US District Court, to to this link.

There were several lawyers who spoke, but the main presenter was Erin Brockovich. She spoke to those in attendance for about 20 minutes, talking a little bit about her history, the types of chemicals used by Wolverine and why it is so important for people to be part of this class action lawsuit.

After Brockovich and the lawyers spoke, the forum was opened up for Q & A. Nearly two dozen people got up to speak. There were several people who just had clarifying questions about the lawsuit and the contamination. Many people asked about their children, the potential longterm health effects and whether or not their kids would benefit from the lawsuit, even if they no longer lived in the area.

There were a few people who believed that their current health condition is the result of the corporate pollution coming from Wolverine Worldwide, with 3M and Waste Management complicity. One woman said she had stage 4 cancer and was part of a citizens group that was demanding answers and demanding justice. Several people were with the group called Demand Action From Plainfield Township Regarding Unsafe Drinking Water. Some members of this group were handing out information as people entered the gym at Comstock Park High School.

Information that is being posted on the Demand Action From Plainfield Township group seems consistent with what the lawyers and Brockovich were saying in regards to how long Wolverine Worldwide has been using the toxic chemicals for shoe manufacturing and how long there has been evidence that the chemicals used were toxic. Brockovich said that as early as 1939, Wolverine Worldwide has been dumping waste from production that included the toxic chemicals that are named in the lawsuit.

There were others who were critical of the lawsuit and of Brockovich, but most people who asked questions were in favor of the legal action being taken against the 3 companies. However, there were several legitimate concerns raised about not limiting the lawsuit to the PFAS and PFOS chemicals, as there are other toxic chemicals that are showing up when people are testing their water. You can see from the map below, how large an area the toxic plume is, based on what is known now.

There was also some discussion at the forum about how people might be able to filter their water, once it has been tested. However, some responded with concerns about cost and the fact that the contamination may not show up now, because of the complexity of the underground aquifer in the area. All of the concerns raised by people were completely understandable and they demand to be answered.

There was one thing that left me feeling a bit concerned after leaving the forum. While I support the class action lawsuit that is seeking to hold Wolverine Worldwide, 3M and Waste Management Inc. accountable for their crimes, there was no real discussion or suggestion from anyone who spoke about other tactics and strategies that could be pursued in conjunction with the lawsuit. It seems that in this case, with the amount of people the contamination is impacting that it would be critical to think about and develop additional strategies that could be used in this struggle. It is possible that the Demand Actions from Plainfield Township Regarding Unsafe Drinking Water may be one of the places to discuss other tactics and strategies, but regardless of where these ideas are discussed, they need to be developed in order for justice to be realized.


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