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EPA official: "Good chance" of Superfund status for Ann Arbor's dioxane plume

kayaker on river
City of Ann Arbor
A plume of contaminated groundwater is slowly making its way to the Huron River near Ann Arbor.

The U.S. EPA says the site of a plume of contaminated groundwater in the Ann Arbor area has a "good chance" of being eligible for the Superfund program's National Priorities List.

That's based on the EPA's preliminary assessment, according to Superfund Branch Chief Tim Fischer, who appeared at a forum on Wednesday to update residents.

The plume of 1,4 dioxane, a suspected carcinogen, has been spreading in the groundwater under Ann Arbor for decades. The plume has also contaminated groundwater in Scio and Ann Arbor Charter townships.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell hosted the forum. She said Superfund status would make the EPA the lead agency in charge of the cleanup, instead of the state.

She acknowledged how deeply frustrating the fight to get the pollution cleaned up has been, but said there's now some real progress.

"No matter what, we're gonna get there," Dingell said. "It's going to take time. We just need to keep everybody safe. And the good thing is the federal government has more ability to make the polluter pay."

The polluter, Gelman Sciences, is currently doing a court-ordered partial cleanup.

Fischer said the decision whether to add the site to the Superfund NPL could be made by the fall of 2024 — but added that even if that happens, it could take another four to six years for the EPA to determine a final cleanup plan.

Several residents expressed dissatisfaction with the current cleanup plan and said the state and EPA could do more to improve it, even in the absence of Superfund status.

Officials with the state Attorney General's office said in many respects, their hands are tied by state law and the terms of the current court-ordered consent agreement, which provides for partial cleanup.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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