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EPA involvement many years off for Ann Arbor's Gelman plume cleanup

gelman plume
Caroline Llanes
Michigan Radio

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) held a community meeting last night to address concerns about the contamination of Ann Arbor’s groundwater by a dioxane plume.

Gelman Sciences, a now defunct company, is responsible for the contamination of the groundwater with a chemical called 1,4 dioxane. Gelman had been assisting with cleanup through extraction wells in 2019, but the plume continues to spread closer and closer to the Huron River, the source of Ann Arbor’s drinking water.

Joan Tanaka is the deputy director of the Superfund program for the Environmental Protection Agency in Region 5.


She says the EPA will need to study the contaminated site extensively before moving forward, and that they don’t know very much right now.


“We're talking big chunks of time, you know, three years to proposal, one year to final, one year to negotiate the study, and then, you know, it might take a year or two to find oh, this would be a good idea to do something quickly,” Tanaka said.


She says the EPA has emergency measures that they can take in the case of residents being actively harmed by exposure to dioxane from the plume.


Jeff Hayner is on the Ann Arbor City Council. He says his constituents are not satisfied with dioxane being below action levels in drinking water.


“And so at some point there is going to be an exposure, and so the concern is that it really isn't a cleanup going on, it's just sort of an action that maintains the status quo under the numbers. That's why we're thinking that maybe we do need a last resort,” Hayner said.


Rep. Dingell said that both the state and federal governments had the ultimate goal of returning the groundwater to its original, uncontaminated state, but it would take many years to achieve such a goal.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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