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Authorities say “No Contact” order remains following data review of Huron River samples

State officials say that after a review of data Friday evening and Saturday morning, the boundaries of the current no-contact recommendation for Huron River system waters will remain in place until further notice.

According to a release Saturday evening, experts from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) assessed all available information including water sampling data collected throughout the week to make the determination.

The recommendation was put in effect after the release of a toxic compound from Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom last weekend into the sanitary sewer system. It was then routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility, which discharges to Norton Creek, and then into the Huron River system.

The release contained Hexavalent chromium,  a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

Of 69 water samples collected throughout 42 river miles during the week, three came back with detections of hexavalent chromium – two detections in Milford’s Hubbell Pond and one in the middle of Kent Lake.

The Kent Lake detection, completed by lab analysis late Friday – was 5 parts per billion (ppb) – just at the detectable limit of 5 ppb. The two Hubbell Pond detections were 11 and 9 parts per billion. All three were at or below values to protect aquatic life.

The state’s chronic aquatic life value is 11 parts per billion (ppb) of hexavalent chromium – designed to protect organisms from long-term exposure harm. Its Acute Aquatic Life Value is 16 ppb, designed to protect from short-term exposures. The samples at Hubbell Pond registered 11 ppb at the surface, and 9 ppb near the bottom. The Kent Lake sample, at between 6 and 12 inches deep, registered 5 ppb. The limit at which testing is not able to detect the chemical is 5 ppb.

Until further notice, MDHHS is recommending that people and pets avoid contact with the Huron River water between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County. This includes Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant (Oakland County), Hubbell Pond (also known as Mill Pond in Oakland County) and Kent Lake (Oakland and Livingston counties).

As additional water test results are received, MDHHS may update this recommendation.

For the section of the Huron River described above:

• Don’t swim in, wade in, play in or drink water directly from the Huron River.

• Don’t water your plants or lawn with Huron River water.

• Don’t eat fish caught in this section of the Huron River. A do not eat advisory for PFOS is already in effect.

“Crews from EGLE continued sampling from the river system Saturday to provide further data and information,” stated the press release. “Investigators are also testing sewage material within the Wixom treatment plant to determine if contamination remains bound up with the sludge inside the plant.”

Officials stressed that properly constructed and permitted drinking water wells should not be directly influenced by surface water, and therefore, are unlikely to be contaminated by chromium from the river. 

In addition, they say that hexavalent chromium from this release is unlikely to enter the groundwater. Unpermitted driven sand points and submerged irrigation pumps installed by property owners along the river may be vulnerable and should never be used for drinking water. 

The statement continued, “EGLE staff continues the investigation to determine why the release occurred, the exact volume and product that was released, and the timeline of events. State and local officials continue to work together to protect public health, keep residents informed, and answer questions.”

Some resources for the public include:

• Dedicated web pages from the Oakland and Washtenaw county health departments, and the City of Ann Arbor.

• MDHHS’ MI Toxic Hotline for questions about potential health effects or exposures. 800-648-6942, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Extended hotline hours will be offered this weekend, Saturday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 7, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• EGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center, a single point of entry into the agency’s programs: EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov or 800-662-9278.

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