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Ann Arbor area chemical concerns resurface

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — A dangerous chemical plume that has been on the move for decades in aquifers beneath Ann Arbor and Scio Township continues to reach into new areas, prompting renewed concerns about efforts to contain it.

U.S. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, sent a letter to EPA Director Gina McCarthy that raises concerns over the agency’s oversight of the chemical spread.

Suspected carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane was recently detected in shallow groundwater near Ann Arbor’s Waterworks Park and Slauson Middle School on the city’s west side. That’s more than two miles from the former site of Gelman Sciences Inc. and its follower, Pall Life Sciences, where the original contamination is believed to have occurred.

On Monday, the Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved a resolution calling for expedited and more intense efforts to clean up the contamination.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, stepped into the fray this week as well, firing off a letter to EPA Director Gina McCarthy that raises questions about the agency’s oversight of the situation. Under terms of a consent agreement, Pall Life Sciences is conducting remediation work under supervision by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

A dangerous chemical plume that has been on the move for decades in aquifers beneath Ann Arbor and Scio Township continues to reach into new areas, prompting renewed concerns about efforts to contain it.

In her letter, Dingell’s questions included:

■“What role does EPA have in ensuring that (DEQ) and Pall are living up to their obligations and meeting the terms of the consent decree?”

■“Has the EPA reviewed whether the remediation plan outlined in the consent decree is consistent with requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act?”

■“...Does EPA assess that the current level of contamination is an immediate threat to human health?”

■In response to dioxane detection in shallow groundwater: “Is EPA concerned that dioxane could be inhaled as vapor when it comes into contact with building foundations and basements?”

The dioxane stalking Ann Arbor’s water comes from industrial processes at the former Gelman site, located just off South Wagner Road. Over a 20-year period starting in 1966, the company made medical filters which involved the use of 1,4-Dioxane as a solvent.

A failure to properly dispose of the material led to groundwater contamination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dioxane impacts the central nervous system, kidney and liver, and is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

An EPA spokesperson did not immediately respond to Dingell’s letter.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

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