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Other groups join lawsuit to cleanup Ann Arbor's 1,4 dioxane plume

Map shows the extent of the underground 1,4 dioxane plume under Ann Arbor.
Map shows the extent of the underground 1,4 dioxane plume under Ann Arbor.

A lawsuit to force a cleanup of Ann Arbor's contaminated water appears to have set a new precedent. The judge allowed a watershed advocacy group to become one of the plaintiffs. That's despite both the polluter and the state attorney general arguing against it.

The Huron River Watershed Council says no one in the lawsuit was advocating for the river itself, including aquatic life and the risk to people swimming, fishing and boating.

A plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane has been moving in all directions near Ann Arbor since it was first discovered 28 years ago.

The City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are also joining the lawsuit against the polluter.

Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council Laura Rubin says the city will represent concerns about groundwater contamination and the county's focus will be well water contamination.

“But we feel the interests of the river are at risk and that nobody's representing those,” she says.

A plume of water contaminated with 1,4 dioxane is slowly spreading in all directions in Ann Arbor.

Rubin says the dioxane could harm fish and other aquatic life, as well as people, if it gets into streams or the Huron River.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, animal studies have shown that 1,4 dioxane can affect liver and kidney function and can cause cancer. Studies of workers exposed to the chemical have not indicated whether the chemical can cause cancer in humans. The Environmental Protection Agency lists it as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

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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