Scio Township updates public on its letter to Gov. Whitmer

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Scio Township is encouraging the public to communicate their views to State and Federal officials when it comes to the Gelman plume contamination.

That’s one point that came out of the update given at the Feb. 23 Scio Township Board meeting about the renewed efforts by Scio Township and other local units of government to enlist the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) involvement in the cleanup of the Gelman pollution.

Back in December, Scio Township sent a letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer requesting support for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund designation of the Gelman Sciences site.

In the letter to Whitmer, Scio Township Super visor Will Hathaway said:

“The communities have worked with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and Gelman through a 1992 Consent Judgment to obtain a protective remedy for this site. However, Gelman has refused to perform work that will protect the public health and the environment from the release and migration of dioxane, which USEPA has categorized as a probable human carcinogen. The proposed August 2020 Fourth Amended Consent Judgment has been rejected by Scio Township and other local communities as not sufficient to protect the lives, homes and environment. The County of Washtenaw, City of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Charter Township and Scio Township are now in agreement that placing the Gelman Site on the NPL (National Priorities List) is the most viable mechanism to address the environmental risks posed to the community by the Gelman contamination.”

Hathaway said the contamination has already impacted a four mile by one mile area of local aquifer with dioxane. He said it’s a threat to water supply, private residential wells, residential buildings vapor intrusion and natural resources.

The letter to Whitmer concluded with, “We request that you provide a Concurrence Letter to USEPA supporting the continuance of the designation process for inclusion of the Gelman Site as a NPL site.”

Now its a few months later, so where do things stand with the letter and request?

At the board meeting on the 23rd, Scio Township Board Trustee Kathleen Knol updated the board and public about recent meetings related to the Gelman plume and she also provided the results of testing conducted at a well in the township.

Knol said she and others spoke on Feb. 12 with some local officials from Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County as well as with 12th District Representative Debbie Dingell about the Gelman plume situation. She said they discussed strategies going forward in requesting help from the EPA.

They have and are taking those steps.

Then on Feb. 19, Knol said they also discussed the EPA petition and other issues related to the Gelman plume with representatives from the state attorney general office.

The discussions didn’t stop there.

Township officials have spoken with EPA representatives as well. One of these representatives was the person who worked on the preliminary assessment of the plume conducted back in 2017.

Knol said the reps. from the EPA indicated to them that they were still waiting for the letter of concurrence from the governor, which is needed before they can think about going forward with the next steps and their possible review.

The next steps could include a remedial investigation, feasibility study and period of negotiation with the responsible party.

In the testing update, Knol said the results of a well on Elizabeth Road came in recently and it revealed the dioxane reading had increased to 2 parts per billion after previously testing at 1 part per billion. It was tested last summer.

She said this test result is significant and concerning, and cited an example that when this contamination number was detected in the past at an individual residence well that homeowner would then be disconnected from it and then hooked up to the municipal water system.

This result seems to be a concerning one, so The Sun Times News followed up with Hathaway through email to ask him when Trustee Knol referred to 2 parts per billion...why is that concerning and how should the community interpret it?

This was his answer:

1,4 dioxane is a probable carcinogen. There are differing standards at which it is deemed too hazardous for human consumption. These standards are a measure of the volume of the compound in water. Specifically, how many parts of dioxane per billion parts of water before it is hazardous to humans? The fact that it is measured in parts per billion shows just how toxic this substance is.

The story of the Gelman contamination revolves around the varying standards that have been applied to measuring the hazard posed by the 1,4 dioxane with which the Gelman Science Corporation polluted the environment. For years the State of Michigan had a standard of 85 ppb(parts per billion). This is way higher than standards applied elsewhere. Eventually, the State of Michigan lowered the threshold for hazardous exposure to 7.2 ppb. Even this measure is significantly more tolerant of exposure than that allowed in other states or the EPA's standard. The 2 ppb detected in a private well cited by Kathy (trustee Knol) during her 2/23/21 report would set off alarms in other states.

I imagine how I would react if I knew that there was any dioxane in the well water that my family was drinking. I ask myself, if I were mixing formula for my baby with water that had only 1 ppb of dioxane, would I feel that was an acceptable risk? Would I feel that just a little bit of poison was ok to feed my children?

The various parts per billion measures of risk are different if the dioxane exposure occurs in a manner other than consumption (for example, vapor intrusion through the foundation of a house).

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