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Gelman Sciences files motion to pause lawsuit seeking new plume cleanup plan

Scio Residents for Safe Water

Gelman Sciences wants a Washtenaw County judge to pause court proceedings in the 1-4 dioxane pollution cleanup case.

Gelman is responsible for a plume of contaminated groundwater that's been spreading in the Ann Arbor area for at least 37 years.  Attorneys for Gelman say the court proceedings seeking  a new cleanup plan should stop because they could end up being moot. That's because the city of Ann Arbor and Scio Township, which are plaintiffs in the case, have also asked the EPA to step in and declare the plume a Superfund site. 

Will Hathaway is Supervisor for Scio Township. He says Gelman Sciences is following the same game plan it has for years, which is to delay a more intensive cleanup.

"There is a tremendous amount of work that's been done in the court process and it would be a shame to lose all that by Gelman basically sort of saying 'oh, we should throw this all away,'" Hathaway says.  "We're concerned about the people who have to live w the pollution that Gelman caused over a long period of time and Gelman seems to be doing everything it can not to deal with it."

In a statement, Stephen Postema, city attorney for Ann Arbor, said:

Gelman’s motion is to stay the hearing in this case that was ordered by the Circuit Court in November 2020 and is now set to be held in March 2021. The City finds no factual or legal merit in the motion and will timely file a joint response with the other Intervenors opposing the motion prior to the February 4, 2021 court hearing on the motion. This is a transparent attempt by Gelman to further delay the state court case, and it was filed only after the City and other Intervenors have expended an incredible amount of time and effort to prepare the detailed briefs and other documents required by the Circuit Court for the hearing.”

The contamination continues to spread despite Gelman's current cleanup efforts. Homes in Scio Township have had to be removed from well water, and the plume has spread into Allen Creek, which leads to the Huron River. The plume is also inching towards Barton Pond, the source of Ann Arbor's drinking water.

In addition to asking the judge overseeing the case to pause the proceedings, Gelman has also asked for the City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and the Huron River Watershed Council to be removed as plaintiffs in the case, leaving only the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. 

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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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