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State sends violation notices to Tribar after chromium spill, but critics demand closure

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City of Ann Arbor
Norton Creek and Huron River between site of Tribar Manufacturing and Ann Arbor's Barton Pond.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) served Tribar Manufacturing — the Wixom company responsible for a chemical release that threatens the Huron River system — with multiple violation notices.

The violations included not immediately notifying EGLE after discovering the discharge, and sending an unauthorized discharge of pollutants to the wastewater treatment facility.

EGLE says due to the seriousness of the violations, it has initiated accelerated enforcement, which will initiate an administrative consent order process and the agency will seek full cost recovery from Tribar.

But violations and fines are not enough, according to environmental groups and elected leaders who gathered at Heavner Canoe Rental in Milford. The rental company said it has lost about 70% of its business due to the state telling people not to have contact with water in the Huron River between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County.

Ann Arbor is in Democratic State Representative Yousef Rabhi's district. He said Tribar Manufacturing also polluted the Huron River with chemicals called PFAS, requiring the state to issue a "do-not-eat" fish advisory for the river south of Tribar.

"I would like to see Tribar fully shut down," he said. "I don't think there's any good reason to have a polluter that is a repeat offender and a continual bad actor continue operating upstream from a drinking water intake for the fifth largest municipality in the state."

Rabhi said companies like Tribar have been allowed to do partial cleanups of their pollution, ever since the state's Polluter Pay law was scrapped in 1995 under the Engler administration.

"And so you have more and more sites peppered all across the state that we're just sort of writing off and saying okay, we're just going to keep it here in these aquifers or in these rivers. They're never going to get cleaned up."

Rabhi has introduced a Polluter Pay bill that would require polluters to meet drinking water standards during cleanups.

Tribar has not yet responded to the violation notices.

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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