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Testing hasn’t detected carcinogenic chemical in Huron River, despite spill nearby

Health officials are urging people to avoid contact with a stretch of the Huron River in Oakland and Livingston counties.
Washtenaw County
Health officials are urging people to avoid contact with a stretch of the Huron River in Oakland and Livingston counties.

A cancer-causing chemical that spilled near the Huron River earlier this week has not been detected in the river itself, though a state environmental official said testing is not complete.

Last weekend, Tribar Technologies discharged thousands of gallons of a liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium from its Wixom plant into the city’s sanitary sewer.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

Hugh McDiarmid is a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. He says testing in 11 parts of the Huron River has not detected the chemical.

But, McDiarmid said, “’Non-detect’ don’t necessarily mean it’s not there. It may mean that, you know, it hasn’t been found yet.”

McDiarmid said additional testing on 29 other sites will be conducted, including Barton Pond, where the city of Ann Arbor draws drinking water. Officials said this is both a precaution and an effort to establish baseline data should contamination reach the intake.

According to EGLE, river modeling estimates that it would take several weeks at minimum for the streamflow to reach the city’s intake from the part of the river under investigation.

Environmental officials are also investigating how the leak occurred in the first place. EGLE staff inspected the Tribar plant Wednesday.

In the meantime, a “do not contact” recommendation remains in effect along a portion of the Huron River in Oakland and Livingston Counties.

Until further notice, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that people and pets avoid contact with the Huron River water between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County. This includes Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakland County, Hubbell Pond (also known as Mill Pond) in Oakland County, and Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting. During his two and a half decades in broadcasting, Steve has won numerous awards, including accolades from the Associated Press and Radio and Television News Directors Association. Away from the broadcast booth, Steve is an avid reader and movie fanatic. Q&A