County Joins Ann Arbor on 1,4 Dioxane Issue

Washtenaw County commissioners have voted to explore options – including possible legal action – to help set cleanup criteria for the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in Michigan. In addition to its broader implications, the resolution is meant to address the 1,4 dioxane plume stemming from contaminants at the former Gelman Sciences plant in Scio Township, which is now closed. [.pdf of county resolution]

Map by of Pall-Gelman 1,4-dioxane plume. Map by Washtenaw County. Black arrow added to indicate baseball field at West Park.

Map of Pall-Gelman 1,4-dioxane plume, by Washtenaw County. Black arrow added to indicate baseball field at West Park. The yellow region is the estimated plume area where the 1,4-dioxane concentration is greater than 1 ppb. That area encroaches well into the city of Ann Arbor and extends outside the well prohibition zone (red border).

The vote was taken at the board’s Sept. 18, 2013 meeting with three of the nine commissioners absent: Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6).

Dan Smith (R-District 2) stated “present” during the vote, rather than voting for or against the resolution. After the meeting, corporation counsel Curt Hedger told The Chronicle that he’d be looking at the board rules to determine how Smith’s vote will be recorded. Hedger pointed out that the resolution needed five votes to pass, which it garnered.

The Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution on Sept. 3, 2013 related to the 1,4-dioxane issue. However, the city council resolution makes no mention of legal action.

In contrast, the resolution passed by county commissioners includes passage that:

…directs the County Administrator, Corporation Counsel and other appropriate county staff to work in collaboration with the County Water Resources Commissioner to explore other actions available to the County, including but not limited to legal action, meeting with and petitioning the MDEQ and EPA to aid in setting appropriate cleanup criteria for 1,4-dioxane in Michigan, including the Pall-Gelman plume and without site specific criteria for the Pall-Gelman plume and to cooperate with other local units of government to ensure protection of public health and the environment; …

The history of Gelman Sciences and its 1,4-dioxane contamination goes back 40 years. The company was based in Scio Township and later acquired by Pall Corp. The Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality’s current 1,4-dioxane generic residential drinking water cleanup criterion was set at 85 parts per billion (ppb). But an EPA criterion set in 2010 was for 3.5 ppb.

The MDEQ was supposed to re-evaluate its own standards by December 2012, based on the EPA’s 2010 toxicological review. It missed that deadline, and is anticipated to miss a new deadline set for December 2013.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main. A more detailed report will follow: [link]