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Canoe rental businesses hurt by hexavalent chromium discharge

Laboratory assistant with test tube takes water samples on river bank
Sergey Mironov/ Sergeymironov.co/Sergey - stock.adobe.com
Laboratory assistant with test tube takes water samples on river bank.

Huron River canoe rental businesses are feeling the impacts from a recent chemical release.

State regulators issued several violation notices to Tribar Technologies this week. It's the company responsible for the release of hexavalent chromium to the Wixom sewage system. The wastewater treatment plant in Wixom drains to the Huron River system.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen.

State officials are still investigating the spill and running tests. But business owners are concerned about restoring public trust.

Village Canoe Rental in Milford is just downstream from the plant. Heather and Scott Armstrong have owned the canoe rental business for seven years.

They shut down after state officials issued a do-not-contact advisory for parts of the Huron River.

"So Norton Creek is just upriver from us and that is where the potential chemicals would enter into the system. It is about a half an hour paddle or so from us, so we would kind of have been the first business along the river affected from that," Heather Armstrong said.

She said they'll be ready to welcome people back when they can.

Heavner Canoe Rental has been able to stay open because it's upstream of the site of the incident.

Owner Bruce Heavner said they’ve been on the Huron River renting canoes and kayaks for 69 years.

But Heavner said business is way down because people are scared. He told Michigan Radio's Stateside that business went down 70% the week after the do-not-contact advisory was issued. He thinks getting people to feel safe coming back will be the real hurdle.

“If it does come out that the spill was contained and it’s not as bad as we thought it was, then I hope that the stigma will be lifted and people will come back out in our boats or theirs and just enjoy the river. It’s a beautiful place.”

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
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