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1,4-dioxane groundwater pollution eventually could cause vapors in some Ann Arbor basements

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water
A graphic representation of the dioxane plume under Ann Arbor

A newly published study suggests a plume of contaminated groundwater could eventually get into home basements in parts of Ann Arbor.

The research by University of Michigan scientists suggests that a current plume of the chemical 1,4-dioxane in groundwater will get closer to the surface.

The chemical was used as a solvent by the former Gelman Sciences site on the west side of Ann Arbor. A plume of the improperly handled chemical is in groundwater, and moving east. As it does, the surface of the ground and the groundwater get closer.

“It is possible that homes will have their basements in contact with contaminated groundwater that is of sufficiently high concentrations to present an exposure and health risk,” said Rita Loch-Caruso, co-author of the paper published in Current Opinion in Environmental Science and Health. Robert Bailey was the lead author.

According to a review of the chemical by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1,4-dioxane at high levels can cause liver and kidney damage.

Loch-Caruso said breathing vapors of the chemical trapped in a basement would be a more intense exposure than contaminated water on the skin.

“What our study shows is that this exposure pathway deserves attention. We do need to care about contaminated groundwater in contact with residential basements.”

A companion study lays out the history of the continuous spread of the 1,4-dioxane groundwater pollution.

The neighborhood around Ann Arbor’s West Park is a potential area of concern.

The City of Ann Arbor did a preliminary study and sampled the air some structures. No trace of 1,4 Dioxane has been detected yet. The scientists suggest regulators should keep monitoring for it.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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