This is a recording of the Public Forum we hosted via Zoom on October 13, 2022. Panelists gave an overview of the release and covered the broader issue of pollutants entering our environment from industry and manufacturing, impacts on human health, and how regulations are not strong enough to address them. EGLE gave an update on its investigation and next steps. The group answered questions and discussed the importance of the State passing a polluter pay law and what citizens can do to take action.
As of August 12 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has lifted the recommendation for no contact with Huron River water after reviewing data related to the Tribar toxic chemical release. There is no need for people and pets to avoid contact with Huron River water. MDHHS had issued a no-contact recommendation on August 2 while the spill was under investigation.
- Ask Governor Whitmer to help pass Polluter Pay bills House Bill 4314 and Senate Bill 58 (see Sample Letter text below to copy, paste, and send).
- Stop the Use of Toxic Hexavalent Chromium in Vehicles: sign a petition to automakers, calling on them to STOP buying parts made with hexavalent chromium.
- Vote! Check out the Michigan League of Conservation Voters for information on candidates.
- Support HRWC! Our staff needs to focus time and resources to address unexpected issues like this contamination. Please consider joining today.
Sample letter template for Governor Whitmer
Support Polluter Pay bills (letter template)
To: Governor Gretchen Whitmer
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Dear Governor Whitmer,
Our freshwater and beautiful lands define our state. From rolling streams and rivers to the sprawling natural forests and parks to our Great Lakes, these all contribute to our thriving economy and life in the Great Lakes State.
I write today to ask that you publicly support and do what you can to help pass Senate Bill 58 and House Bill 4314 – the Polluter Pay bills. This legislation will require polluters to clean up their messes and hold them responsible. We all know the adage, “If you break it, you buy it”.
Currently, there are over 24,000 contaminated sites across our state, and the burden for cleaning up those sites is falling on taxpayers, instead of the responsible parties. These corporate polluters broke their responsibility to our state, their employees, shareholders and us, the taxpayers, when they recklessly polluted our water, land and air. They should have to pay for it.
Unless we truly start holding these polluters accountable, we are going to continue to see widespread contamination from PFAS, industrial contaminants, and other harmful chemicals. We cannot continue to put this burden on our state. We must protect our most valuable natural resources, and protect them for future generations.
Thank you for your work to protect our water, land and air. I look forward to your support of these two important bills.
Michigan Environmental Council hosted an interview with Rebecca Esselman (HRWC executive director) with Beau Brockett, communications coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Council about the Huron River, its watershed, chemical spills caused by nearby industry, and what we can do locally, statewide, and federally about it. October 15, 2022.
On Tuesday, August 2, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) announced that several thousand gallons of wastewater containing hexavalent chromium were discharged from Tribar Manufacturing to the Wixom Sewage Treatment Facility. The facility treats wastewater before discharging it into Norton Creek, which connects to the Huron River between North Wixom Road and Burns Road in Milford. Hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation, was still present in the treated water.
EGLE reported on Monday, August 8 that testing over the previous week did not detect the presence of hexavalent chromium in the Huron River system downstream of the release. EGLE collected and tested 144 water samples from 55 locations throughout the river system from Barton Pond in Ann Arbor to Norton Creek in Wixom. Investigators continue to evaluate test results from the Wixom wastewater treatment plant and a filtration system at Tribar that may have trapped the hexavalent chromium. EGLE has also issued multiple violation notices to Tribar Manufacturing.
The details of this event are under investigation. HRWC is tracking this issue closely and is committed to communicating the best available information to help keep the public and the river safe.
Announcements and Resources
>EGLE Report August 12: Fate of Chromium (Total and Hexavalent) Release from Tribar Plant 5
>EGLE Response Webpage: Tribar Hexchrome Release (includes map of surface water testing sites with results)
>EGLE Press Release Aug. 12 (MDHHS lifts recommendation for no contact with Huron River water after reviewing data related to Tribar toxic chemical release)
>EGLE Press Release Aug. 10 (EGLE issues violation notices to Tribar, investigation continues)
> EGLE Press Release Aug. 8 (no contact advisory still in place, testing and investigation continues)
> EGLE Press Release Aug. 6 (no contact–people and pets- advisory still in effect, low-level detection in Kent Lake)
> EGLE Press Release Aug.5 (update on testing, advisory still in effect)
> EGLE Press Release Aug. 4 (preliminary test results, what’s next, good news for drinking water wells)
> EGLE Press Release Aug. 3 (testing and health hotline)
> EGLE Press Release Aug. 2 (no contact advisory for upper Huron)
Stop the Use of Toxic Hexavalent Chromium in VehiclesSign a petition to automakers, calling on them to STOP buying parts made with hexavalent chromium
With the Ecology Center and others, HRWC signed on to a letter calling on Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, and Toyota to immediately cease doing business with, or utilizing parts from, any supplier using hexavalent chromium. These facilities violate industry supply chain standards and endanger worker and environmental health. Hexavalent chromium is a major safety hazard to workers, a threat to drinking water supplies, and a source of contamination in over 1,000 sites across the United States. There are commercially available substitutes for hexavalent chromium whose performances meet current specifications.
Require Polluters to Pay for Cleanup
On Wednesday, Aug 10, Heavner Canoe & Kayak Rental hosted a press event and rally about the hexavalent chromium spill from Tribar Technologies to the Wixom wastewater treatment plant. State Representatives Yousef Rabhi and Felicia Brabec and Oakland County Commission Chair David Woodward called for support of polluter pay laws. Other speakers included representatives from the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Clean Water Action – Michigan, Bruce and Alan Heavner and Mona Shand from Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin’s office. HRWC promoted this event and staff were there to show support and call for action. We support stronger polluter pay laws. Dual bills introduced by Representative Rabhi (House Bill Number 4314) and Senator Jeff Irwin, would require polluters to clean up releases “to the extent technically feasible.” Those bills would also strike language that allows polluters to limit cleanup so long as they restrict public access to polluted sites.
All of us here at HRWC are heartbroken about the implications for the river and the residents and communities who rely on it. This event and countless others throughout Michigan, even over the past year, demonstrate how weak Michigan’s protections for the environment have become. We are committed to fighting for Tribar to take responsibility for their negligence and pushing the state to take the most aggressive enforcement action possible against Tribar.
From the news media – articles and coverage of this issue
Forum planned to update public on Huron River chromium spill (MLive)
Weeks after Tribar Chromium Waste Spill, Many Questions Remain (MLive)
Huron River chromium spill much smaller than feared, EGLE says (MLive)
Reports: Huron River largely dodged hexavalent chromium scare (Bridge Michigan)
Tribar employee overrode alarm 460 times before Huron River spill (MLive)
Mich. toxic spill sparks crackdown, political furor (E&E News)
Huron River chromium spill prompts call for stricter Michigan pollution law (Bridge Michigan)
No toxic compound found in Huron River, but state expands monitoring (Detroit News)
Latest Huron River tests find no cancer-causing chromium; advisory remains (Bridge Michigan)
Anger, uncertainty and a race for answers in Huron River chromium spill (Bridge Michigan)
Officials shut Wixom plant after chemical release, assess contamination at water treatment plant (Crain’s Detroit Business)
Cancer-causing hexavalent chromium spills from Wixom plant into Huron River (Bridge Michigan)
‘No contact’ with Huron River advised after toxic chemical release (MLive)
En Español: EGLE continúa pruebas de derrame de sustancia química en el río Hurón (Latinos en Michigan)
City of Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant webpage
Oakland County Hexavalent Chromium web page