ANN ARBOR — State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor City Council member Sabra Briere, and Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi applauded the proposal today by the Department of Environmental Quality to revise cleanup thresholds for more than 300 pollutants. The proposed rule would set the cleanup level at 7.2 parts per billion (ppb) for the 1, 4 dioxane contaminating Ann Arbor’s groundwater. The DEQ has been legally required to update the state cleanup criterion since 2013 using new toxicity evidence.  

“I am glad that DEQ has finally proposed a rule to better protect our municipal water supply and our community from this known carcinogen,” Rep. Irwin said. “I hope that they will go on to use this new tool aggressively to compel Gelman to clean up their pollution.”

“We have been working towards this day for some time,” Mayor Taylor said. “The new standard does not match EPA guidance, but it is an important, substantial, and welcome step forward. I look now to the DEQ and the Attorney General to go into court immediately to accelerate the polluter’s monitoring and cleanup. Ann Arbor drinking water is safe. We need to keep it that way.” 

“Residents in Ann Arbor have been concerned about the water quality and health of our community, specifically with regard to 1,4 dioxane, for decades,” Councilwoman Briere said. “The release of new cleanup standards will help the city and the county ensure cleaner water in years to come. This announcement is the result of a lot of work by a lot of people. I look forward to our next steps forward, as we make changes to our cleanup expectations.”

“After so much time and effort on the part of local concerned citizens and the unified front of elected leaders around our county, I am glad to see that the DEQ has finally acted.” Commissioner Rabhi said. “This just shows that when a small group of devoted citizens fights for change, good things can still happen. But the fight is far from over; I would like to urge the DEQ to take this new standard to the courts to intensify the ongoing 1,4 dioxane cleanup and ensure that everyone is drinking safe water.”

Action on the new cleanup standards will not begin for some time yet. The proposed changes have to go through a public comment process before becoming final. After that, the DEQ will be able to ask the courts to revise polluters’ cleanup plans in light of the new criteria. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency determined a dioxane cleanup standard of 3.5 ppb. The DEQ’s proposed new cleanup criterion for dioxane is far less than the current state criterion of 85 ppb, but higher than EPA’s due to different exposure assumptions. The toxicological data underpinning both standards are the same. 

Washtenaw County’s state legislators, Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline), Rep. Jeff Irwin  (D-Ann Arbor), Rep. David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti), Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), and Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), will host a town hall meeting for citizens to get information on the dioxane plume, the cleanup plan, and the new proposed standards for dioxane and other pollutants. DEQ director Keith Creagh will give an update on the proposed new cleanup criteria and the DEQ’s plan to implement them. The Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD) will present about the dioxane plume and strategies to address it. There will also be a public question and answer period.

The town hall will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, April 18th, in the auditorium at Eberwhite Elementary School, 800 Soule Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103. The school is within the area where groundwater is believed to be already contaminated by the spreading dioxane plume