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EGLE announces support for making Gelman plume EPA superfund site

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

The plume of 1,4 dioxane in Washtenaw County's groundwater is one step closer to getting federal help with its cleanup. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy requested today that the Environmental Protection Agency initiate the assessment of the site for the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.

Gelman Sciences is responsible for the plume of 1,4 dioxane that has been slowing seeping into the groundwater of the areas surrounding the company's former manufacturing plant for at least 37 years. In the letter, EGLE director Liesl Clark says the state agency "will work closely" with the EPA to make sure current cleanup efforts continue.

Roger Rayle is the chair of Scio Residents for Safe Water. He says he was happy to receive the news, and that this is an important first step towards a comprehensive cleanup.

"There’s a lot left to do, but by having the EPA and their resources, we’ll get the proper competence that’s needed, the same level of due diligence to match the scale of the problem." He adds, "There may be some of us that are not around to see the end of the cleanup, because we're limited by our lifespan. At least we can get it started for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Rayle says the cooperation and support of multiple local governments, including Scio Township, Washtenaw County, and the city of Ann Arbor, have been crucial in initiating federal help.

"That’s really what it takes is a community to all be on the same page and by doing that, the EPA process will go much faster because the they don't have to worry about the local dissension and things like that. They’ll have enough dissension with the recalcitrant polluter!"

Earlier this year, Gelman requested that a judge pause court proceedings in a case regarding the cleanup, and asked that the judge remove the city of Ann Arbor and Scio Township as plaintiffs in the case, leaving only EGLE.

Rayle says this sort of thing is why the EPA is so necessary in this case.

"Local and state governments just don't have the wherewithal to fight a multi-billion dollar company when it doesn't want to do a full cleanup. But [the EPA] are built for it, that's what they do," he says.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) expressed her support for EGLE's decision in a statement, saying, "EGLE’s decision to allow the communities impacted by the Gelman dioxane plume to move forward in the process of adding this site to the federal Superfund clean-up list is an important step. After EGLE’s comprehensive assessment of the site, this decision reflects the next step in this process."

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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