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State continues water testing after traces of toxin found in Milford's Hubbell Pond

The Detroit News - 8/5/2022

Aug. 6—Testing for hexavalent chromium continued on waters in the Hubbell Pond area in Milford on Friday after a tests done on Thursday revealed low levels of the toxic substance in the pond.

Two test samples taken from the pond on Thursday showed levels of the pollutant at or below state safety standards. The samples registered 11 parts per billion at the surface, and 9 parts per billon near the bottom.

The state's "chronic aquatic life value" for hexavalent chromium, meant to guard against long-term exposure, is 11 parts per billion; the "acute aquatic life value," for short-term exposures, is 16 parts per billion.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has been searching for the toxin in the Huron River and related waterways after Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom discharged liquid last weekend that contained 5% hexavalent chromium into the sanitary sewer system near the plant. Wastewater discharges from the Wixom facility to Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River system.

Hexavalent chromium is a potent cancer-causing material. The state issued a no-contact order Tuesday for the Huron River between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County, recommending people and pets avoid touching the water, using it to water plants or eating fish from the river.

On Friday, two crews from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy sampled waters upstream, downstream and within the pond to gather more information about the potential location of the toxin.

Results of those tests weren't immediately available from EGLE, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday night from The Detroit News.

"The Hubbell Pond results were the only detections of hexavalent chromium from widespread sampling Thursday along the Huron River system downstream from the release," the department said in a Friday afternoon press release. "More than 30 samples were taken from varying depths from near the point of release downstream to Barton Pond in Ann Arbor."

Investigators are also testing sewage material within the Wixom treatment plant to determine if contamination remains bound up with the sludge inside the plant, the release said.

Officials stressed that more data is needed to develop a more complete picture of of the location, movement, and concentration of the contaminant.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

State health officials recommend that, until further notice, people and pets avoid contact with parts of the Huron River and other waterways in an area that includes parts of Wayne, Oakland and Livingston counties.

Water to avoid includes the Huron River between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County, as well as Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakland County, Hubbell Pond in Oakland County, also known as Mill Pond, and Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties.

"As additional water test results are received, MDHHS may expand this recommendation to other areas of the Huron River," the department stated in a press release.

The department's health warnings include:

— Don't swim in, wade in, play in or drink water directly from the Huron River.

— Don't water your plants or lawn with Huron River water.

— Don't eat fish caught in this section of the Huron River.

MDHHS and EGLE officials stressed that properly constructed and permitted drinking water wells should not be directly influenced by surface water, and therefore, are unlikely to be contaminated by chromium from the river.

"Hexavalent chromium from this release is unlikely to enter the groundwater," officials said in the release. "Unpermitted driven sand points and submerged irrigation pumps installed by property owners along the river may be vulnerable and should never be used for drinking water."

Twitter: @kbouffardDN


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