Firm in Huron River chemical release issued cease-and-desist order

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The company that released a hazardous chemical into the Huron River system this week has been issued a cease-and-desist order, state officials said Wednesday.

The city of Wixom issued the notice to the Tribar manufacturing facility on Monday or Tuesday, a representative for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy told The Detroit News.

Tribal Technologies, described on its website as a "leading provider of innovative, technology-enabled decorative trim solutions," has multiple plants in the Oakland County community.

EGLE referred questions on the company's status to Wixom officials, who did not immediately respond Wednesday night.

Representatives for Tribar also did not respond.

Hexavalent chromium was discharged to a sanitary sewer system from Tribar over the weekend and routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility. The chemical is a known carcinogen that can cause several adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

On Wednesday, EGLE  sampled nine locations with results expected Thursday to track the pollutant’s location as it moves downstream, officials said. The wastewater is discharged to Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River system.

The Huron River near a horse staging area at Proud Lake Recreation Area, in Milford, Tuesday evening. State health officials are recommending that residents and their pets avoid contact with parts of the Huron River watershed following the release of hexavalent chromium.

Results of the first two tests, taken Tuesday at the mouth of Norton Creek and on the Huron River just downstream from Norton Creek, did not detect the presence of hexavalent chromium, state officials said. 

State officials said the two samples aren’t sufficient to draw conclusions about the effects of the pollutant on the Huron River watershed and they are the first two data points in what will be a lengthy testing process.

The agency and its watershed partners are developing a testing plan for coming weeks, state officials said. State investigators on Wednesday also met with officials from Tribar in Wixom, where the release occurred, to collect information about how the release happened and other details that may help regulators better protect the public.

State officials said one goal is to better define the volume or amount of liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium that was discharged to the sanitary sewer system from Tribar over the weekend and routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility.

The affected area is the Huron River between North Wixom in Oakland County and Kensington roads in Livingston County, according to the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services; Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; and local officials.

EGLE officials said Tribar  notified them at 3:21 p.m. Monday that it had released several thousand gallons of a liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium into the sewer system. The company said that although it discovered the release Monday, the release could have started as early as Saturday morning.

“This is a significant release into a large, much-loved waterway,” said Liesl Clark, EGLE director, in a statement Tuesday. “Our teams are in the field now assessing the situation. We will stay on the job as long as it takes to ensure residents are safe and impacts to the ecosystem are minimized.”

Also affected: Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant; Hubbell Pond, also known as Mill Pond; and Kent Lake.

Residents are asked not to swim, wade or drink water from the Huron River. It’s also advised not to water plants or the lawn. Fish caught from this section of the Huron River should not be consumed.

The development prompted Huron-Clinton Metroparks officials to close beaches and boat rental at Kensington Metropark near Milford until further notice.

Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed