Testing continues following Huron River spill

Test results from nine surface water samples taken Wednesday downstream of a release of hexavalent chromium into the Huron River system showed no detectable presence of the contaminant, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced Thursday. Two tests taken Tuesday also detected no presence of the chemical. Surface water samples are taken within the first six to 12 inches of the surface of the water.

A “do not contact” recommendation remains in effect as continued testing along the river system and in the Wixom wastewater treatment facility took place Thursday

Liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium was discharged to the sanitary sewer system from Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom over the weekend and routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility. The wastewater discharges to Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River system. Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

Until further notice, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recom-mending 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).

This recommendation may change or be expanded as additional information becomes available through test results.

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.

Though the results to date are non-detect, EGLE is expanding its monitoring to ensure public health protection. Investigators are testing sewage material within the Wixom treatment plant to determine if contamination remains bound up with the sludge inside the plant. They were also in the field Thusday testing at 29 different locations – many with multiple samples – along the river system including Kent Lake. Crews will also test Barton Pond, where the city of Ann Arbor draws drinking water – both as a precaution and to establish baseline data should contamination reach the intake. Modeling estimates that it would take several weeks at minimum for the streamflow to reach the city’s intake.

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.  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.

EGLE staff inspected the Tribar plant Wednesday as part of an ongoing 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 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 of-fered 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 pro-grams: EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov or 800-662-9278.


 

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