The Ann Arbor City Council met Aug. 4 to discuss the city’s response to the contamination of the Huron River by Tribar Manufacturing, backlash regarding an AAPD event flier and more at the first meeting after the primary election.
City Administrator Milton Dohoney Jr. began the meeting by briefing the council on the release of hexavalent chromium into the Huron River that occurred July 30 in Wixom. Water Treatment Manager Brian Steglitz shared insight into the impact of the release on Ann Arbor.
“I’d like to start with the comment that the city’s drinking water currently is safe to drink,” Steglitz said. “We at the water treatment unit are all focused, as our number one priority of ensuring that that continues to be true and that we will be protecting public health.”
Steglitz also provided updates on the response to the chemical release and the formation of a response team, which includes members of the City of Ann Arbor, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
“In addition to collecting samples and continuing to monitor and track the movement of this into our intakes, into Barton Pond, we’ve also ordered some materials that will be arriving over the next day or two that will allow us to do some treatability studies over the next week to determine our ability to remove this chemical from the source waters and we hope to have more information about that work over the coming week,” Steglitz said.
Steglitz said that the contaminated water may reach Ann Arbor anywhere between two weeks and a month from the initial leak. To prepare for the arrival of the contaminated water in Ann Arbor, Steglitz said the city is working to modify the water treatment process to remove hexavalent chromium and will utilize the city’s second water source: wells located on the south side of town.
Steglitz also said it is unnecessary for residents to stockpile water or install a home treatment process.
In response to the chemical release in the Huron River, City Council approved an action to take legal response efforts against Tribar Manufacturing.
“Tribar’s pollution of the Huron River needs to end,” Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, said. “We at the city do not have regulatory authority but we do have the ability to bring aggressive and appropriate action in court to seek injunctions and damages and efforts to do our part to cover our costs and to be compensated for the damages that are accruing as a result of Tribar’s wrongdoing and I am confident that we will do so.”
Lisa Jackson, chair of Ann Arbor’s Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC), then provided updates on a flier the Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD) shared weeks ago inviting residents to “get booked”, “take the cops to court” and “catch me if you can” for a series of community engagement events.
The names were regarded by some residents as negative labeling and descriptions of punishment, WXYZ Detroit reported. In a now-removed Facebook post showcasing the events, commenters called the descriptions of the events racist and horrific.
“While one could commend the AAPD for making an effort to engage our community in contexts outside of law enforcement, this incident demonstrated a long-standing problem with the department that it did not occur to the Ann Arbor Police Department that inviting the community to ‘get booked’ would not come across as playful or fun,” Jackson said. “(This) speaks to the dire need for both more diversity within the department and better lines of communication between the department and the community. … No matter what AAPD’s intentions, their message will not get across if they can’t use language appropriate to their very diverse audience.”
Jackson also discussed the search for a new police chief, asking for ICPOC to be included earlier in the process, as well as advocated for the development of an unarmed response team.
“This project and the potential development of an unarmed response program has the potential to meet the needs of so many disenfranchised groups within our community and it would be a huge disappointment if the potential for such a program were hindered due to a lack of imagination and creativity,” Jackson said.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, then reviewed the progress that staff members have made over the summer.
“Staff (members) have made significant progress in three areas: the first one is being reviewed by the legal department, chapter 40, (and) is regarding vegetation, and the revisions also included the ability to replace a lawn with a more pollinator-friendly natural surface covering,” Griswold said. “Number two, the resolution for (the University of Michigan) workforce housing and that’s based on the three principles of equity, sustainability and vision zero, which refers to transportation. One of the opportunities would be living learning laboratories for the students and I am very thankful that a dialogue has begun between the city and the University of Michigan. Lastly, a meeting will happen tomorrow regarding the resolution to optimize our initiatives again.”
City Council also approved a Professional Services Agreement with Black & Veatch of Michigan to design the Ultraviolet Disinfection System Replacement Project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant at a cost of $307,401.
Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, also showed support for the action.
“Thank you to our city attorney for getting right on this and I think there’s broad support at the table for doing this,” Eyer said. “My feeling is just that our response cannot be strong enough or swift enough. This company has shown itself to, unfortunately, be a bad actor with PFAS discharges with air quality problems and now this, and we need to take every action we can possibly take in order to protect our river and to hold them accountable.”
Summer News Editor Anna Fifelski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.