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After toxic chemicals pose "imminent danger" in Howell, tests now show lower levels

City of Howell

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has discovered a toxic chemical in the air near a manufacturing plant in Howell.

Update: Thursday, December 5 at 10:00 a.m.

The company responsible for the toxic pollution has vowed that it has completely stopped using the chemical.

Diamond Chrome Plating had been using trichloroethylene (TCE) as a degreaser. The company informed the environment department that it is removing the compound from its Howell premises completely.

Update: Tuesday, November 26 at 4:00 p.m.

Environment department officials say that follow-up tests at Diamond Plating Co. in Howell show that the level of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the air is "below health screening values." Officials say a set of additional tests came back with the same result.

Additional tests are ongoing, and the facility responsible stopped using the degreaser believed to be the source of TCE.

In a letter to Howell residents on Monday, EGLE wrote:

The Diamond Chrome degreaser – suspected as the primary source of the TCE – is still not operating. Before it is allowed to resume operations, the company must provide a comprehensive plan to meet health and environmental standards. This plan will be rigorously reviewed by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) prior to any action by Diamond Chrome to resume operation of the degreaser.

Original post: Thursday, November 21 at 11:20 a.m.

Officials say the pollution poses an "imminent and substantial" danger to the public. The department announced an investigation into trichloroethylene (TCE) vapor intrusion and outdoor air emissions Tuesday, and a public meeting will be held Thursday evening.

TCE is a cancer-causing chemical. Possible side effects of exposure include defects in developing fetuses, compromised immune systems, and an increased risk of developing kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to MDHHS.

Officials say the solvent is being used as a vapor degreaser at Diamond Chrome Plating in Howell. High levels of TCE were found to be leaking from rooftop vents. One sample in August found TCE levels at nearly 14 times the state’s residential health screening level of 2 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3), and another sample in early November was 11 times the screening level.

TCE pollution has created thousands of toxic sites throughout the state, and has lead to contaminated drinking water in northern Michigan.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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