It is with great relief that most of the hexavalent chromium solution that Tribar Technologies released into Wixom’s Wastewater Treatment Plant two weeks ago did not reach the Huron River. Michigan’s EGLE and DHHS, the City of Ann Arbor, Wixom and others made significant
efforts to determine the timing, amount, and fate of the toxic chemical that was released between July 29 -31. Most of the hexavalent chromium was captured and retained at the wastewater treatment plant. As a result, on August 12, the “no contact” advisory for the portion of the Huron River system between Wixom and Kent Lake was lifted. Monitoring the river sediments and water column will continue for several weeks to ensure the safety of the river and Ann Arbor’s drinking water, which is sourced from the Huron River. To see the full details read Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Fate of Chromium (Total and Hexavalent) Release from Tribar Plant 5. You can also check HRWC’s Hexavalent Chromium landing page to track the events and get links to announcements and resources.
While we are incredibly fortunate to have avoided what could have been a horrific ecological and human health disaster, we cannot lose sight of what ALMOST happened. Tribar Technologies has now caused two catastrophic chemical release. The PFAS Tribar released to the Huron River, discovered in 2018, is STILL hurting the river and watershed residents. We cannot eat the fish. This impacts those in our community who rely on the river to feed their families. The City of Ann Arbor has invested millions and is incurring ongoing costs to maintain a drinking water system that can remove PFAS from its source water which is the Huron River.
Sadly, these PFAS and hexavalent chromium disasters are not just about a single polluter or these chemicals. There are so many hard hitting take homes from this event. HRWC is committed to pursuing solutions that provide more protections for the Huron River and rivers throughout Michigan. Here is our plan:
- We will advocate with the State to put the full weight of our current laws and regulations toward accountability for Tribar.
- We will consider, with our partners, the possibility of legal action.
- Along with a coalition of environmental organizations, we are calling on the automotive industry to shift purchasing practices by excluding any parts that utilize hexavalent chromium or any manufacturer that continues to use hexchrome at their facility. There is a similar letter for concerned citizens you can sign.
- We will advocate for laws that provide stronger protections, oversight, and accountability to those that use products that can cause harm to the environment and public health. This includes polluter pay bills currently introduced to the Michigan Legislature (HB 4314, SB 0058). Polluter pay laws hold industry liable for pollution it causes and the cleanup of polluted sites. It is a commonsense law that would result in more vigilance from industry. Current laws require only that industry need to “contain” contamination and the burden of cost incurred for clean up falls on the public.
- We are committed to serving as a trusted source of information during a crisis. HRWC will continue to provide updates in a timely manner on this event and any future events where there is a significant threat to the river and river users. Sign up for our e-news here and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Clearly there is much work to be done. But I have been heartened and inspired by our Huron River community’s strong and coordinated response. We stand with you and all affected by this event. And we are committed as ever to create the change needed to protect our shared waterways.