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Local lawmakers echo MDHHS’ ‘do not contact’ direction as environmental quality tests continue along Huron River

Low-level hexavalent chromium detected in Hubbell Pond, Kent Lake

LANSING, Mich. — A group of bipartisan legislators on Monday reminded residents of the “do not contact” recommendation issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a portion of the Huron River in Oakland and Livingston counties continues to be tested for the presence of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom reported on Aug. 1 that liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium was discharged to the sanitary sewer system and routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility that discharges into Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River system.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reported Saturday that three of 69 water samples collected throughout 42 river miles during the week detected the presence of the chemical – two in Milford’s Hubbell Pond and one in the middle of Kent Lake. All three samples indicated that chemical levels were at or below the 11 to 16 parts per billion values to protect aquatic life. The Kent Lake detection found 5 parts per billion and the two Hubbell Pond detections were 11 and 9 parts per billion.

EGLE continues to expand its testing and monitoring of the river. Department officials have also inspected the Tribar plant as part of an ongoing investigation to determine the cause and further details of the release.

“It is important that residents observe the do not contact recommendation along the Huron River while the area continues to be monitored by state environmental quality and public health experts,” said state Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake. “I will also continue to monitor the situation and work with local officials as they investigate the situation, pursue solutions to keep this from happening again, and to keep the public informed.”

“I’m committed to working with locals and state partners to advance accountability and ensure incidents like this don’t happen,” said state Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township.

“I want to assure residents that EGLE is monitoring the situation as they collect samples from Norton Creek, just below the Wixom WWTP, to the Huron River, just downstream of Kent Lake. While the vast majority of the samples have back as non-detect for hexavalent chromium, the chemical has been detected in Kent Lake and Hubbell Pond. Monitoring efforts are being expanded to ensure protection of public health,” said state Rep Ann Bollin, R-Brighton Township. “Also, during work at the Tribar facility, EGLE learned that the material, which is still believed to be at about 5% hexavalent chromium solution, did go through a granular activated carbon treatment system prior to discharging to the sanitary sewer system and entering the Wixom WWTP. And to date, sampling staff have not observed any impacts to wildlife.”

“The Huron River is vital to our community, both for recreation and for drinking water,” said state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield. “Our public safety officials and regulators are coordinating a response to mitigate the ecological damage and protect our health. I hope that everyone in our community will follow their recommendations so that we can keep people from being harmed by this pollution.”

“Residents should be able to drink out of the tap and enjoy our state’s beautiful waterways without fear of chemical exposure,” said state Rep. Kelly Breen, D-Novi. “Parents, in particular, have enough to worry about without the added burden of wondering if the water their children are playing in is toxic. Tribar Manufacturing has breached the public’s trust on more than one occasion and its negligent behavior cannot be tolerated, especially at the expense of the taxpayers, public health, and the environment. We will continue to work alongside the attorney general, EGLE and MDHHS to ensure full accountability for this incident.”

“This polluter cannot be allowed to continue endangering the lives and livelihoods of everyone who lives along the Huron River,” said state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor. “I urge EGLE and the attorney general to do everything in their power to shut Tribar down and to recover the costs of cleanup, economic damage and Ann Arbor’s additional municipal water treatment. Taxpayers and ratepayers should not be on the hook for corporate negligence. It’s time polluters pay to clean up their own messes.”

MDHHS’ do not contact recommendation advises that people and pets avoid contact with the Huron River water between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County and includes Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakland County, Hubbell Pond, also known as Mill Pond in Oakland County and Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties.

The recommendation directs that residents:

More information can be found at the EGLE website as well as 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 can be reached at 1800-648-6942, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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