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Tribar admits employee overrode alarm 460 times

Reports that an alarm was ignored more than 450 times at the Wixom facility blamed for contaminating the Huron River have been confirmed by the company itself.

In its response to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), Tribar Technologies said that one of its employees “confirmed in an interview that he was continuously overriding the alarm” when a thousands of gallons of wastewater containing hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, was released into Wixom’s sewer system on July 29. From there, the contaminated water went to the city’s  wastewater treatment plant, which then discharges into the Huron River.

“Please explain how the operator overrode the waste treatment alarms 460 times between the programmable logic controller time stamp of 4:59 p.m. to 7:46 p.m. on Friday, July 29, 2022,” EGLE’s notice states.

Tribar told The Detroit Free Press that the employee involved was no longer with the company.

EGLE is conducting an investigation of the chemical spill, which prompted an advisory from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warning people and pets to avoid coming into contact with water directly from the river between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County.

While the advisory was later lifted after tests showed minimal traces of the compound,

EGLE still issued a violation notice on Aug. 10 and indicated it could seek “full cost recovery” from Tribar for costs associated with the spill.

EHLE cited Tribar for violations including:

  • Failing to immediately notify EGLE immediately after discovering the discharge as required under the law and their industrial user discharge permit.
  • Sending an unauthorized discharge of pollutants to the wastewater treatment facility that resulted in interference to the treatment process, violating pretreatment rules in the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).
  • Failure to maintain a properly updated Pollution Incident Prevention Plan (PIPP) and failing to certify compliance with NREPA rules regarding spillage of oil and polluting materials.

Neither Tribar nor EGLE had any comment on the company’s response.

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