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Issues Of The Environment: An Update On The Gelman Plume In Ann Arbor And Scio Township

Sep 6, 2017

Michigan State Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor)
Credit Michigan House Democrats / housedems.com

A week after a public forum on the 1,4 dioxane plume contaminating groundwater in Scio Township and Ann Arbor, you’ll get the latest on what is being done to address the problem. The potential carcinogen continues to spread in groundwater from the old Gelman Sciences facility on Wagner Road in Scio Township, slowly moving towards the Huron River. In this week’s "Issues of the Environment," WEMU’s David Fair catches up with State Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) to see what is being done to move from plume containment to actual clean-up. 


Overview

   ·  For twenty years, Gelman Sciences discharged the toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane at its property on Wagner Road.  According to the EPA, long-term exposure of a few parts per billion in drinking water poses a 1 in 100,000 cancer risk.  Many area wells have been contaminated, including one city municipal water supply well that was shut down.

   ·  Monitoring of area wells and shallow seeps confirms that the plume continues to inch through the area’s groundwater in the direction of the Huron River.  The greatest concern is that the tainted water will eventually reach the river and poison the city’s drinking water source.  In addition, the possibility that toxic vapor from shallow groundwater may infiltrate homes is being investigated. 

   ·  Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Tim Connors recently allowed the county, Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and the Huron River Watershed Council to join the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality this year as co-plaintiffs in the long-standing case against Gelman Sciences.  That decision is now being challenged as Gelman has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to remove those parties from ongoing negotiations. 

   ·  Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township, along with the Sierra Club's Huron Valley Group, have petitioned the EPA for a review of the Gelman pollution situation and designation as a Superfund cleanup site.  Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are still weighing the pros and cons of a Superfund. 

   ·  In a court filing this year, Gelman Sciences said complete removal of the dioxane from local aquifers is not feasible and goes beyond what's required under state law.  Currently, it is permitted to remediate by trying to manage the risk of exposure, while allowing the plume to spread.  Today, Gelman Sciences pumps and treats about 500 gallons of contaminated groundwater a minute.  It used to do much more and is permitted to go up to 1,300 gallons per minute.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu