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Ann Arbor residents demand full cleanup of dioxane, but it may not be legally possible

UPDATED version
Scio Residents for Safe Water
Map showing the 1,4 dioxane plume in Ann Arbor's groundwater

More than 130 people who live in Ann Arbor and neighboring townships attended a town hall about the city's dioxane-tainted groundwater Wednesday night.

The plume of contaminated water has been spreading from the former Pall Gelman plant on Wagner Road for decades. 

Over the years, Ann Arbor has had to shut down one of its city wells after detectable levels of the suspected carcinogen was found in them, and a number of homes in Scio Township had to be taken off well water and connected to Ann Arbor's water system because dioxane got into their wells. 

Ann Arbor currently gets the majority of its water from the Huron River, which is relatively far from the plume.

The current consent agreement between Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality and the company calls for mitigating the risk to public health, but not a complete cleanup.

Conan Smith is a former County Commissioner, who now works for State Representative Ronnie Peterson.

He says he understands people's frustration. His own house is on the edge of the plume.

"I respect that we want this to be a 'polluter pay' situation," Smith told the residents, some of whom erupted from time to time in angry accusations.  "It is much more complex than that, unfortunately.  That mitigation regime is not what we want - it's what we got.  So we're still pushing hard on that."

Officials say they hope negotiations as part of a lawsuit will result in something closer to a complete 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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