Ann Arbor is spending $333,000 on more wells to track pollution from polluters

Ann Arbor is spending $333,000 on more wells to track pollution from polluters

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor is moving forward with the installation of more monitoring wells to track the spread of the Gelman dioxane plume to stay alert for any toxic chemical pollution directed at the main source of pollution. drinking water in the city.

City Council voted unanimously this week to accept a nearly $333,000 construction contract with Cascade Drilling for the so-called sentinel wells on the city’s west side, as well as a contingency fund of about $33,000 for potential change orders.

Ann Arbor officials have repeatedly complained that Michigan needs tougher environmental laws requiring polluters to pay for the damage they create so taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill or face the bill. to persistent pollution problems for generations.

In the absence of such laws and with local officials still struggling to fight the Gelman Sciences polluter in court, state and local governments continue to spend money to deal with the aftermath of decades-old pollution. by Gelman.

A July 2021 map of dioxane contamination in groundwater in the Ann Arbor area, showing in pink where readings are above 7.2 parts per billion, the state limit for dioxane in the state. ‘potable water. The map also shows the property boundaries of the Gelman Sciences pollution source off Wagner Road and the large, newly expanded area through which the plume is allowed to spread through Ann Arbor to the Huron River and where use groundwater is prohibited by court order.state of michigan

City officials earlier this year announced plans for new wells to fill gaps in the monitoring network between the northern edge of the expanding plume and Barton Pond on the Huron River, the city’s main drinking water supply. town.

The wells are to be installed as an “early warning system” at two locations, including one near the intersection of Miler Avenue and Maple Road. The other was to be Garden Homes Park, but the city is now conducting a more thorough evaluation to determine the best location given recent dioxane detections in Scio Township, said Brian Steglitz, acting administrator of utilities.

Tests find Ann Arbor dioxane plume contamination in wells near Huron River

Water samples will be taken regularly from wells to test for 1,4-dioxane, a chemical classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and which can also cause kidney damage and liver and respiratory problems.

Gelman, which once made medical-grade filtering devices at its Wagner Road industrial complex on the Ann Arbor-Scio Township border, used dioxane in its manufacturing processes and released large amounts of the solvent into the environment between the 1960s and 1980s, leaving the area’s groundwater heavily polluted by a dioxane plume that now stretches for miles underground.

Experts have warned that the plume is not as simple as it appears on maps, which depict it as a large, amorphous blob, and finger-like extensions of it may go unnoticed in spaces between watch pits while advancing towards the river and not showing on any maps.

A map shows the area north of I-94 and M-14 in Scio Township, bordering western Ann Arbor.  It is overlaid with blue and orange dots representing residential wells sampled for dioxane.

A map released by the Township of Scio shows the results of a third round of testing of residential drinking water wells in the township conducted in May 2022. The tests, conducted with a more sensitive method than that employed by officials of the State in their own monitoring, found eight other residences north of M-14, some near the Huron River, with low levels of contamination with dioxane, a probable carcinogen that has spread through groundwater during decades from the former Gelman Sciences facility on Wagener Road.Provided by the Township of Scio

Under court orders, the polluter has been pumping and treating and monitoring the plume for many years, but state and local authorities have been battling for several years to try and get the polluter to do more since then. that the plume continued to spread and threaten water supplies, including residential wells. The Michigan Court of Appeals dealt a heavy blow last week, siding with Gelman in overturning a local judge’s orders for more cleanup and surveillance.

Michigan Court of Appeals Overturns Cleanup Order in Ann Arbor Pollution Case

Council Member Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, said he was pleased to see the $333,000 well proposal coming to council this week.

“It’s a pretty reasonable cost for it, and as we’ve seen before in the work of Scio Township, they’re needed, I’m sorry to say,” he told his colleagues.

Funding comes from the city’s water supply fund, which the city plans to use bond proceeds to repay.

The city has conducted monthly testing of its drinking water from Barton Pond, and while there have been a few trace dioxane detections in the past, there haven’t been in more than two years, according to data available on the city’s website.

The city is separately addressing other contamination issues, including PFAS chemicals, from upstream pollution unrelated to Gelman.

Kathy Griswold, Council Member, D-2nd Ward, said local officials were still pursuing a two-track strategy of fighting Gelman in court and separately seeking a federal Superfund cleanup.

“I just want to let the public know that we’re still aggressively pursuing both paths and doing everything we can,” she said.

The water tower on the site of the Gelman Sciences laboratory in the township of Scio is demolished

The water tower that once marked the property of Gelman Sciences is toppled by Iseler Construction at 642 S. Wagner Road in Scio Township on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com

Water tower marking the site of a notorious industrial polluter demolished near Ann Arbor

With the litigation now being moved from the Lansing Court of Appeals to the Washtenaw County Trial Court before Judge Tim Connors, City Attorney Atleen Kaur said this week that the city’s legal team is considering the next steps.

“We take this very seriously and are looking at various options,” she told the board. “Procedurally, the case has not yet returned to Judge Connors, so there is nothing to do immediately, but I will present you with options once we have considered them. “

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