I’m honored to be your voice and representative in Lansing. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (517) 373-2577 or at YousefRabhi@house.mi.gov to let me know about the issues that are important to you or if you have difficulty accessing state services. We are here to help!
Representative, 53rd District (Ann Arbor)
Yousef and You Discussion Schedule
I host regular Yousef and You forums for constituents to get updates and discuss legislative issues. Typically, discussions are held in a hybrid format at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month and in person at 10 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month. The next two coffee hours will be:
Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m. Outside at Roosroast Coffee, 1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor
Monday, Sept. 12, 6 p.m In person: Outside at Argus Farm Stop Cafe, 1200 Packard St. in Ann Arbor. Remote: Zoom. Register here if you have not done so already.
I hope to see many of you there!
Tribar Chemical Spill: A2 Finished Drinking Water Still Not Affected
It is hard to express how angry I am about yet another toxic chemical spill from Tribar affecting the Huron River. Tribar Technologies is a plating company responsible for much of the recent PFAS contamination in the Huron River. On the evening of July 29, Tribar released about 10,000 gallons of a solution containing hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen, into its wastewater. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is still investigating what caused that release. Initially, EGLE believed that up to 8,000 pounds of hexavalent chromium had been released into the river, and they worked quickly with the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a no-contact warning for the affected section of the river. Ann Arbor’s water treatment plant immediately began planning for enhanced drinking water treatment as the contamination was expected to move downstream to our municipal water intake in a matter of weeks.
However, in subsequent testing EGLE has not identified high concentrations of hexavalent chromium in the Huron River system. The no-contact order has been lifted. After taking about 150 samples, EGLE detected hexavalent chromium in two samples in Hubbell Pond (11 parts per billion [ppb] near the surface and 9 ppb near the bottom) and one from Kent Lake (5 ppb near the surface). The detection threshold for the testing method is 5 ppb, and the enforcement level to protect aquatic life from long-term exposures is 11 ppb. These samples were all far below the limit for sources of raw drinking water of 120 ppb and the limit set for finished drinking water of 100 ppb.
EGLE now believes that most of the hexavalent chromium was removed or converted to less hazardous trivalent chromium before reaching the river. The wastewater was filtered through the granulated activated carbon filters EGLE had required Tribar to install to reduce PFAS in their wastewater, and this removed or broke down a large portion of the hexavalent chromium. The Wixom wastewater treatment plant removed more of the hexavalent chromium by sequestering it into solids. EGLE now believes less than 20 pounds of hexavalent chromium made it into the surface water. This is still unacceptable, but much less likely to pose a threat to humans and wildlife.
Continued sampling will ensure Ann Arbor’s drinking water intake is not impacted by the hexavalent chromium spill. Ann Arbor draws 85 percent of our drinking water from the Huron River at Barton Pond. We used to draw water from other municipal wells, but we were forced to close them due to groundwater dioxane contamination from Pall/Gelman. Thus, our community is more vulnerable to pollution in the Huron River threatening our water supply because of previous failures to protect groundwater.
This same manufacturer, Tribar, was also the source of wastewater and stormwater containing PFAS that was discovered in 2018 to be polluting the Huron River. Unlike the hexavalent chromium spill, that PFAS did make it into our finished drinking water. Our water treatment plant has since installed additional filtration to better remove PFAS, but fish from the Huron River are still unsafe for human consumption.
This particular manufacturer is a serial polluter, and I am glad that EGLE has sent a notice of egregious violation and started accelerated enforcement action. The Wixom wastewater treatment plant has also barred Tribar from sending any more industrial wastewater to the plant, essentially shutting down Tribar’s operations for now. EGLE will attempt to recover fines and response costs from Tribar. I do not think that this is enough to protect our community. It was only luck and the diligence of the Wixom wastewater treatment plant that have spared our community from a drinking water emergency due to Tribar having dumped the hexavalent chromium solution from their tank, overriding hundreds of alarms. This repeat offender should never be allowed to operate again. Hexavalent chromium plating processes have been banned in Europe, and there is no reason to allow it anywhere in Michigan, much less upstream of a municipal water intake.
I am drafting legislation to ban hexavalent chromium and require manufacturers to switch to alternatives that are safer for workers and the surrounding community. We also need to strengthen environmental cleanup laws so that polluters are required to pay to restore contaminated water and land. Every session I have served in the Legislature, I have introduced a bill to require real cleanup. Every session, the legislative majority has neglected to take up the bill. House Bill 4314 is in the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee right now, and I hope that recent events will provide the necessary impetus to pass it and finally hold polluters accountable.
EGLE has a dedicated page on the hexavalent chromium spill, monitoring, and enforcement actions.
EGLE posts detailed sampling information on this interactive map.
This page has updated information on the implications of the spill for Ann Arbor’s water treatment needs.
Residents with questions about hexavalent chromium, potential health effects or exposures can call the MI Toxic Hotline at (800) 648-6942, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Improving Support for Survivors of Sexual Assault
I have introduced three bills to improve the sexual assault exam process for survivors.
House Bills 6245 and 6246 would provide vouchers to sexual assault survivors for their follow-up health care needs paid for from Michigan’s Crime Victims fund. The fund already covers the cost of the exam to collect evidence of sexual assault. These bills would extend that coverage to later care related to the assault such as pregnancy tests or prescriptions.
House Bill 6244 would protect the privacy of sexual assault survivors by not allowing prosecutors or law enforcement to use their DNA obtained from rape test kits against them in unrelated prosecutions. After news reports earlier this year revealed some law enforcement agencies had been retaining and using survivors’ DNA in unrelated investigations, I drafted this bill to protect their civil rights and preserve confidence in the rape kit system.
Removing Financial Barriers to Clearing a Criminal Record
I introduced House Bill 6315, which eliminates the fee that people have to pay for being considered for criminal expungement. This fee is one of the ways our criminal justice system criminalizes poverty; a system is decidedly unjust if your wealth determines your access to justice. This bill is a small yet significant step towards making things right. I hope that the Legislature will pass HB 6315 to build on the success we have had the last two terms in making it easier for people to clear their records.
Protecting Public Property from Corporate-Branded Naming
Public buildings and park facilities belong to all of us, and they shouldn’t bear the names of private corporations. I was recently appalled to see a state-owned hiking trail named for a large corporate polluter. To address this, I introduced House Bill 6348 to bar the state from naming any new state buildings or properties for for-profit or nonprofit corporations, and to require them to rename those that already bear corporate names. HB 6348 has been referred to the House Committee on Government Operations.
Maintaining Accessibility for Cash Customers
Access to credit shouldn’t be a prerequisite for participation in daily life. That’s why I support Sen. Sylvia Santana’s Senate Bill 59, which would require businesses to accept cash as payment for in-person retail goods and services. This bill does not address the issue of parking garages and lots, however. After hearing from a constituent whose car was trapped in a parking garage that would not accept cash to exit, I introduced House Bill 6349. Businesses should not be allowed to discriminate against cash-paying customers in these types of simple transactions.