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Dingell requests EPA get involved in Huron River contamination

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) get involved in a toxic chemical release into the Huron River.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor)

During the weekend of July 30, Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom released between 8,000 and 10,000 gallons of water containing a 5% solution of hexavalent chromium. The release went first into the Wixom wastewater treatment facility, which then discharges into Norton Creek, and from there into the Huron River. 

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen and can cause health issues when inhaled, ingested or put in contact with skin. 

In a letter sent Monday to EPA Region 5 Regional Administrator Debra Shore, Rep. Dingell asked for the EPA’s direct involvement in the investigation. 

“This chemical release is inexcusable and deeply disturbing,” said Dingell. “Authorities at both the state and local levels are working around the clock to ensure the safety of the public and the impacted environment, but it is clear greater federal assistance and resources are needed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

Dingell said that with an unknown amount of possibly toxic chemicals drifting downstream towards Ann Arbor’s drinking water intake, there is “growing alarm and uncertainty from downstream residents and across southeast

Michigan” and therefore  it is critical for the EPA to be directly involved in the emergency response and to ensure all responsible parties are held accountable. She then urged the EPA to assign an On-Scene Coordinator, a Community Involvement Coordinator, and an Emergency Response Team that includes a Laboratory and Analytic Support Unit, to help deal with the situation.

She then provided a list of questions regarding the spill, specifically if any action has been taken against Tribar to address or prevent future spills. 

“All stakeholders and every level of government must work together now to effectively identify, contain and remediate this contamination release, as well as properly hold Tribar Technologies Inc. accountable,” Dingell said in the letter. “Please know I stand ready to work with you and all parties to protect public health and our environment.”

On Saturday, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)  says its crews tested 55 locations throughout the river system from Barton Pond – where the city of Ann Arbor has a drinking water intake – upstream to Wixom. None of the 75 samples tested from those locations had detectable level of either hexavalent chromium or total chromium.

Of 144 water samples collected throughout 42 river miles since the release, only three have come 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.

Investigators are evaluating test results from wastewater solids that were sequestered at the Wixom Wastewater treatment plant that appear to have trapped chromium, including hexavalent chromium, and of a carbon filtration system at Tribar that may have trapped the hexavalent chromium before it was discharged to the wastewater plant.

Despite the results, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) continues to recommend that people and pets avoid contact with the Huron River water between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County.

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