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Environment & Climate Change

Judge to hear arguments for new clean-up plan on Gelman plume

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water
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A graphic representation of the dioxane plume under Ann Arbor

A circuit court judge has scheduled new hearings for May that will likely result in more aggressive cleanup of a source of pollution in Washtenaw County.

The case involves a plume of contamination from Gelman Sciences that's been spreading in the groundwater for decades.  

Michigan recently dramatically lowered the standard for 1,4 dioxane in groundwater.  That's the chemical in the plume spreading in the Ann Arbor and Scio Township areas. 

Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor says while the court case seeking a more aggressive cleanup is underway, they're also asking the U.S. EPA to declare the plume a Superfund site.

"The federal cleanup standard is stronger than the state cleanup standard," says Taylor.  "At the same time, however, we recognize that a parallel path may be the most successful path."

Gelman Sciences has been trying without success so far to have the intervenors, Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Washtenaw County and the Huron River Watershed Council removed from the case. 

The company wants to negotiate a new cleanup plan only with the state.   Intervenors rejected a negotiated settlement late in 2020.

The plume has resulted in dozens of homes in Washtenaw County needing to be removed from private well water, and connected to municipal water systems.  

At the same time, it threatens to contaminate Ann Arbor's municipal water system at some point in the far off future.  The plume is believed to be very slowly moving in the direction of Barton Pond, the primary source of drinking water for city residents.

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