EPA to assess Ann Arbor contaminated groundwater

Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 7:51pm

The city of Ann Arbor covered in snow in January 2017.

The city of Ann Arbor covered in snow in January 2017. Buy this photo
Jeremy Mitnick/Daily

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday they will assess whether the dioxane plume in Ann Arbor will qualify for a cleanup under the EPA's federal Superfund, an EPA regional administrator in Chicago announced and MLive reported.

The hazard was first discovered in 1985 after improper wastewater disposal by the Ann Arbor-based company Gelman Sciences — which has since been purchased by Pall Corporation — from 1966 to 1986 created a large plume of the toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane under the city of Ann Arbor, as well as in Scio and Ann Arbor Townships.

The gradually expanding plume has contaminated groundwater, forced the closure of more than 100 private residential wells and is expected to reach the Huron River in the coming decades and potentially contaminate Ann Arbor’s water source at Barton Pond, 120 wells and the Huron River according to several projections.

In March 2016, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced it would be updating its cleanup standards for 1,4-dioxane, but this is the first time the federal government will be involved in evaluating the situation.

The EPA’s recent announcement is, in part, a reaction to local government concerns, such as when the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in July 2016 for a resolution supporting a petition to the EPA for Superfund status. The Commission joins the Scio Township Board of Trustees, which voted in favor of a Superfund petition on June 20, 2016 and Ann Arbor Charter Township — a separate municipality from the city of Ann Arbor — which passed its own resolution of support in March 2016.