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Ann Arbor city council votes to intervene in 1,4 dioxane plume court case

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
Washtenaw County
A graphic representation of the dioxane plume under Ann Arbor.

The Ann Arbor City Council wants to intervene in a lawsuit over groundwater contamination in and around the city. The Council unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting Tuesday night to direct city officials to seek permission from the court to intervene in the case.

Right now there is a consent judgment between the state of Michigan and the chemical company responsible for the pollution, Gelman Sciences, later acquired by Pall Corp. The judgment spells out what kind of clean-up the company is required to do.

The consent judgment stems back to 1992, and has been amended three times since, according to the city council resolution.

Ann Arbor is not a party in the case. But the city's mayor, Chris Taylor, said it should be.

"It is important that the city of Ann Arbor be a full participant in any conversation where the safety of Ann Arbor residents is at stake," Taylor said.

The goal of intervention is to put the city in a better position to push for closer monitoring of the plume of 1,4 dioxane – and to push for stronger clean-up requirements.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently issued an emergency rule establishing stricter standards for exposure to 1,4 dioxane in drinking water. 

The Ann Arbor City Council's resolution aims to protect the city's interests in potential amendments to the consent decree that likely will  arise from the changed standards.

"It is an opportunity for us to take real and meaningful action to accelerate treatment and to accelerate monitoring to ensure that Ann Arbor drinking water remains safe," said Taylor.

The plume of dioxane-contaminated water is spreading – and citizens and city officials are worried it could eventually reach and pollute the city's water supply.