The Ground Beneath Our Feet


The Story:

A group of neighbors who discovered their families were poisoned with harmful chemicals in their water, known as PFAS, have since banded together in their shared struggle for justice and fight for answers. Amidst the health scares and legal battles, the only thing that’s giving these families the strength to get through the difficulties ahead is each other.

Some Background:

Rockford, a cozy West Michigan town just north of Grand Rapids, is home to Wolverine Worldwide. This local-turned-global shoe manufacturer helped build the local economy, but was discovered to have polluted drinking waters of residents throughout Kent County by improperly disposing of leather tanning waste, leaving behind high levels of harmful man-made “forever chemicals”, or PFAS, linked to cancer and other diseases. Residents who’ve supported Wolverine for decades feel betrayed. Meanwhile, a group of neighbors with contaminated wells have become close friends through their shared affliction. Recent widow Sandy Wynn-Stelt believes her husband's cancer was caused by their drinking water. Without medical solutions, mothers like Jennifer Carney and Tobyn McNaughton with children carrying some of the highest-recorded PFAS blood levels, are terrified for their children’s health, as well as their own. Together they began supporting and looking after one another, meeting regularly to share their anxieties and frustrations and lawsuit developments, but also their accomplishments in fighting for remediation — eventually becoming like a family, sharing close bonds which help during hard times. We hope this film, by showing examples of ordinary people acting extraordinarily, will show others they too can take a stand for their communities.


This short documentary is an investigative film for two reasons. First, it will follow an investigation into the alleged malpractices of companies 3M and Wolverine Worldwide, which has affected potentially thousands of residents in Rockford, Michigan. Second, this film will also be investigative by diving deep into the available evidence of the human health impact by PFAS contamination coming from some of the top researchers across various fields. With this, we will be able to share with audiences some of the newest information available that is also part of an ongoing, growing national effort to investigate the effects and regulations surrounding this class of chemicals which have so far gone largely ignored and unregulated in the US. The issue is not just a local one; we continues to learn of PFAS contamination throughout the nation and across the world, and Congress is just beginning to address properly regulating it. It’s a developing story that will help shape the future of industrial chemical policy.


Evan Kutz is the writer and director of this documentary. Evan is a senior student at Michigan State University. With an education in environmental reporting and documentary production, he is now working on his documentary film minor capstone. He has demonstrated creativity and emerging skill in videos produced for class and freelancing for local organizations, ranging from environmental conservation to sustainable food. He cares deeply about environmental justice and using the art of documentary film to bring attention to these issues.


We need your help:

The Ground Beneath Our feet is a non-profit short documentary produced by Michigan State University Doc Lab and directed by Evan Kutz.  Evan is working closely with the characters in this film to help them share their stories and hoping to dive deep into the evidence of the health impact by PFAS contamination. This is a challenging and influential documentary and we need your help to bring it to fruition! 

Our current production budget is $5000 thanks to the support from MSU Doc Lab and Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. This money covered the costs of our project research and parts of the production. Now, we had finished half of our shooting and start to move into post-production. We would love to have your help to support our post-production and promotion budgets. Our goal is $3000, your donations will go to help us on creating a website, submitting to film festivals, finding video editor and graphic designer, and holding for our premiere. 

Bellow is our production budget allocation:

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At the End:

We can't show The Ground Beneath Our Feet to the public without your help. All of us from the production team thank you for considering to fund our documentary!


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Fundraising team (2) 

Evan Kutz 
East Lansing, MI
E Evan Kutz 
Team member
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