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City sues medical filtration company for contamination

BY MONA RAFEEQ
Daily News Editor
Published May 16, 2004

The city of Ann Arbor filed a lawsuit against Pall Life Sciences
Wednesday in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court asking that the
company pay damages for contaminating a water supply well.

Ann Arbor Water Utilities Director Sue McCormick said in a press
release that in 2001, the city discovered one of its water supply
wells contained trace amounts of the 1,4 Dioxane chemical during
routine testing.

The chemical was used as a manufacturing solvent at Pall Life
Sciences’s plant and was disposed of in uncontained lagoons.
These lagoons are not lined with sealants to isolate the chemicals
from surrounding water. The 1,4 Dioxane leaked from a lagoon into
the well.

“We are searching for alternatives to the well,”
McCormick said. “Those alternatives are going to cost money.
Pall should shoulder those costs, not Ann Arbor’s
citizens.”

The city is recommending that Pall pay for a double-lined
pipeline that will treat water containing the chemical and move it
to the Huron River.

McCormick added that although the long-term future is
threatened, the municipal water is safe for all uses.

“Our water meets all published environmental and health
standards,” she said.

The well, which was used mainly during the winter season to
balance the temperature of the water, has not been used since the
chemical was discovered.

The Unit E toxic plume — the measurable discharge of the
regulated chemical 1,4 Dioxane — was discovered two years
ago. City officials say that it is currently 18 million square feet
and still growing.

Pall Life Sciences is part of the Pall Corporation, which is one
of the world’s largest manufacturers of water purification
equipment and filters. On its website, the parent company reports
that its annual sales are about $1.6 billion.

The Pall Corporation website states that its customers have
“a common enemy” in contamination and the company seeks
to “ensure product purity.”

“Unchecked, contamination is potentially dangerous and
always costly,” the website states.

Other plumes that were previously discovered have spread west
and northwest, contaminating residential drinking water wells in
the Westover and Evergreen subdivisions and parts of Scio Township.
Some water users had to rely on bottled water until they were
connected to Ann Arbor water lines.

In 1988, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality filed
a separate lawsuit against Pall Life Sciences. That suit resulted
in a court order in 2000 by Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge
Donald Shelton for Pall to stop the underground contamination by
July 2005.

Matthew Naud, Ann Arbor environmental coordinator, said the
existing MDEQ lawsuit is different from the lawsuit filed by the
city.

“The goal of the MDEQ is limited to forcing Pall to live
up to state of Michigan environmental standards,” he said in
a written statement.

“In contrast, Ann Arbor’s lawsuit seeks compensation
for damages Pall’s contamination has caused to Ann
Arbor.”

Naud added that the city’s lawsuit also seeks a court
order requiring Pall to provide a clean replacement for the
contaminated water supply well.

Pall Life Sciences and city officials were unavailable for
comment.