Rabhi and Irwin Fight to Protect Environment, Hold Polluters Accountable

Bills would require polluters to clean up contamination instead of limiting access
Thursday, February 14, 2019

LANSING — Today, House Democratic Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced identical bills in the House and Senate to require polluters to clean up contamination they cause. Under current law, polluters can simply restrict access to a site or an aquifer instead of treating or removing pollutants. House Bill 4212 and Senate Bill 116 would require that pollution be cleaned up as much as technically feasible.

“Because our laws don’t hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their messes, we have polluted sites across Michigan where people can’t live or drink the well water,” Rabhi said. “Instead of writing off more and more of our land and water as unusable, we need to restore our state to being a clean and healthy place to live.”

Rep. Rabhi and Sen. Irwin represent Ann Arbor, where the Pall-Gelman Corp. dumped hundreds of thousands of pounds of the solvent 1,4 dioxane into the groundwater from the 1960s through 1980s. Because there is no law requiring that Pall-Gelman pump and treat the water it contaminated to restore the aquifer, the court-approved management plan allows the pollution to remain and spread. Residential and municipal wells have been closed as the “prohibition zone” of restricted groundwater has grown over time. The dioxane is spreading toward the Huron River, which is the source for Ann Arbor’s municipal drinking water.

“Currently, the law doesn't require thorough cleanups, leading to orphaned sites that are too polluted to build on and contaminated aquifers filled with water too dirty to drink,” Irwin said. “It’s unacceptable to let companies off the hook when they pollute our land and water. Instead, we need to hold polluters accountable, require real cleanups, and protect our water now and in the future.”

The legislators were joined at the press conference by environmental advocates and representatives of communities affected by the dioxane plume, including Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, Scio Township Trustee Christine Green, Chair Roger Rayle of the Coalition for Action on the Remediation of Dioxane, and Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council.

“It’s time to hold corporate polluters that profit at the expense of communities and the public accountable for clean up,” Laura Rubin said. “In our watershed, that would mean cleaning up the underground plume of toxic waste left by a corporation rather than simply containing it and letting it diffuse into our rivers and streams.”

 

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