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Ann Arbor family "freaked out" after discovering drinking water contaminated with dioxane

water faucet
Flickr user Bart

"I’m past freaked out."

An Ann Arbor father said that to Ryan Stanton of the Ann Arbor News/MLive Media Group after finding out that his wife and three kids have been drinking and using water contaminated by 1,4 dioxane.

A dioxane plume that is slowly working its way toward the Huron River in Ann Arbor has already reached some private wells on the west side of the city. 

Stanton talked to Wesley and Heather Pate, who live on Jackson Road, for a recent story and he joined Stateside to talk about the situation.

“They claim they had no idea their water was unsafe,” said Stanton. “They kind of had an idea something was going on and they knew about testing, but they got these reports that said your reading is at this level, and this is the safe standard, and they were led to believe it was safe. We’re finding out, if you look at federal guidelines, maybe that’s not quite true and they’re alarmed now.”

The testing that Stanton referred to is the water testing conducted by Pall Life Sciences. The company bought Gelman Sciences, the medical supply company that contaminated the area after they disposed of the solvent 1,4 dioxane by spraying it on nearby fields and using a deep water injection well from the 1960s through the 1980s. Pall has been doing the water testing for the last decade and according to Stanton, the most recent level of contamination for the family's water was around 17 parts per billion.

Matthew Naud, the Environmental Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor told Stateside recently that Michigan used to be in line with the federal standard of three parts per billion. However, Michigan’s standard remains at 85 parts per billion, despite a 2013 state law instructing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to update it. The Pate family’s water is testing out at more than five times the federal standard, but since it is well below the state’s regulation, they may not have a legal recourse.

As a result of the well water contamination, the Pate family has hired an attorney and are looking to move to a new home.

According to Stanton, the family is trying to find out if their recent health problems are tied to their contaminated water, which was as high as 50 parts per billion within the last decade. They’ve had a lot of health problems with their children, including high fevers, hives, as well as asthma and growth challenges. Heather also said that she has had kidney and liver problems, which studies have shown can be related to 1,4 dioxane exposure. Stanton said they are meeting with a public health nurse to examine them to see if these problems are a result of the water contamination.

There are also two nearby businesses that are also using the same private water well, a furniture restoration store and a recording studio.

Listen to the full interview below to hear more about the situation and how the county and the MDEQ engaged in a “race” to get the Pate family bottled water, which arrived on Thursday.

Josh Hakala, a lifelong Michigander (East Lansing & Edwardsburg), comes to Michigan Radio after nearly two decades of working in a variety of fields within broadcasting and digital media.
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