Ann Arbor spends $ 333,000 on multiple wells to monitor polluter pollution

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor is proceeding with the installation of multiple monitoring wells to monitor the spread of the Gelman dioxane plume to look for any toxic chemical pollution directed to the city’s main source of drinking water.

The city council voted unanimously this week to approve a nearly $ 333,000 construction contract with Cascade Drilling for the so-called sentinel wells on the west side of the city, plus an emergency fund of approximately $ 33,000 for potential change orders.

Ann Arbor officials have repeatedly complained that Michigan needs tougher environmental laws that require polluters to pay for the mess they create so taxpayers aren’t left to foot the bill or deal with persistent pollution problems for generations. .

In the absence of such laws and with local officials still struggling to fight the polluter Gelman Sciences in court, the state and local governments continue to spend money to address the aftermath of Gelman’s decade-long pollution.

A July 2021 map of dioxane contamination in the Ann Arbor area groundwater, showing in pink where readings are above 7.2 parts per billion, the state limit for dioxane in drinking water. The map also shows the property boundaries of the Gelman Sciences pollution source off Wagner Road and the large and recently enlarged area through which the plume can spread across Ann Arbor to the River Huron and where groundwater use is prohibited by a court order.State of Michigan

City officials announced plans earlier this year for new wells to fill gaps in the monitoring network between the northern edge of the expanding plume and Barton Pond on the River Huron, the city’s main source of drinking water. .

The wells are to be installed as an “early warning system” in two locations, including one near the intersection of Miler Avenue and Maple Road. The other was supposed to be Garden Homes Park, but the city is now carrying out further assessments to determine the best location given recent dioxane readings in Scio Township, said Brian Steglitz, interim administrator of public services.

Tests reveal Ann Arbor dioxane plume contamination in wells near the River Huron

Water samples will be regularly collected from the wells to test for 1,4-dioxane, a chemical classified as a human carcinogen by all routes of exposure and which can also cause kidney and liver damage and respiratory problems.

Gelman, who once manufactured medical filtration devices at his Wagner Road industrial complex on the Ann Arbor / Scio Township border, used dioxane in his manufacturing processes and dumped large amounts of solvent into the environment between the years’ 60s and 80s, leaving the area’s groundwater heavily polluted by a dioxane plume that now extends miles underground.

Experts have warned that the plume is not as simple as it appears on maps, which depict it as a large amorphous blob, and its finger-like extensions could go unnoticed in the gaps between monitoring wells as it advances towards the river and beyond. is shown on any map.

A map shows the area north of I-94 and M-14 in Scio Township, on the western edge of Ann Arbor.  It is covered in blue and orange dots representing sampled residential wells for dioxane.

A map released by Scio Township shows the results of a third round of testing the township’s residential drinking water wells conducted in May 2022. The test, conducted in a more sensitive method than that employed by state officials in their own monitoring, found others. eight residences north of M-14, some in close proximity to the Huron River, with low levels of dioxane contamination, a probable carcinogen that has spread to groundwater for decades from the former Gelman Sciences facility on Wagener Road.Provided by Scio Township

Under court orders, the polluter has been doing plume remediation and monitoring for many years, but state and local officials have struggled in recent years to try to get the polluter to do more as the plume has ha continued to spread and pose a threat to water supplies, including residential wells. The Michigan Court of Appeals dealt a blow last week, siding with Gelman overriding orders from a local judge for more cleanup and monitoring.

The Michigan Court of Appeals overturns the cleanup order in the Ann Arbor pollution case

Board member Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, said he was delighted to see the proposed $ 333,000 well arrive on the board this week.

“It’s a somewhat reasonable cost for that, and as we’ve already seen from Scio Township’s work, they are necessary, I’m sorry to say,” he told his colleagues.

The funding comes from the city’s water supply fund, which the city plans to use the proceeds of the bonds to repay.

The city has carried out monthly tests of its drinking water from Barton Pond, and although traces of dioxane have been found in the past, there have not been any for over two years, data available on the city’s website show.

The city is separately addressing other contamination issues, including PFAS chemicals, from upstream pollution not related to Gelman.

Board member Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward, said local officials are still pursuing a two-way strategy to fight Gelman in court and seek a federal cleanup of the Superfund separately.

“I just want to let the public know that we are still aggressively pursuing both avenues and doing everything we can,” he said.

Demolished the water tower at the site of the Gelman Sciences laboratory in Scio Township

The water tower that once marked Gelman Sciences’ ownership was toppled by Iseler Construction at 642 S. Wagner Road in Scio Township on Tuesday, Aug. 18 23, 2022.Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com

The water tower marking site of the notorious industrial polluter was demolished near Ann Arbor

With the litigation now being remitted by the Lansing Court of Appeals to Washtenaw County Court before Judge Tim Connors, City Attorney Atleen Kaur said this week the city legal team is considering next steps.

“We are taking this very seriously and are considering various options,” he told the board. “Procedurally, the case has not yet passed to Judge Connors, so there is still nothing to be done immediately, but I will present the options once we have examined them.”

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