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People should avoid contact with part of Huron River after "significant release" of toxic chemical

huron river
U.S. Geological Survey
/
File photo of the Huron River.

State officials are urging people not to come into contact with water in parts of the Huron River, after a "significant release" of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, into the river.

The spill was made by Tribar Manufacturing, the same Wixom company responsible for previous contamination of the Huron River with PFAS (a family of industrial chemicals linked to health issues).

People should stay out of the river from North Wixom Road in Oakland County to Kensington Road in Livingston County, including Hubbell Pond (also known as Mill Pond), Kent Lake, and part of Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“This is a significant release into a large, much-loved waterway,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). “Our teams are in the field now assessing the situation. We will stay on the job as long as it takes to ensure residents are safe and impacts to the ecosystem are minimized.”

EGLE was notified at 3:21 p.m. Monday by Tribar that it had released several thousand gallons of a liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium into the sewer system. The company said it discovered the release Monday but indicated it may have started as early as Saturday morning, according to Wixom city officials. It is believed that much of the contaminant already made its way through the treatment plant by the time the release was discovered.

The spill is upriver from the drinking water intake for the city of Ann Arbor. The city issued a statement that it is confident there is no "immediate" threat to drinking water. The state said time-of-travel modeling indicates it would take the contaminant several weeks or more to make its way to the city’s water intakes.

Tribar Manufacturing did not respond to a request for comment.

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters expressed alarm about the spill, saying there's a lack of attention on the campaign trail by Democrats and Republicans alike to the tremendous threat of toxic contamination of drinking water.

“Once again, a corporate polluter — the same one responsible for the PFAS crisis in the Huron River — has contaminated this important river with toxic chemicals, and worse yet, they took over two days to report it,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the League.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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