State officials expand testing of Huron River after release of hexavalent chromium

Wixom auto parts manufacturer Tribar Technologies is under investigation by state environmental regulators for releasing a harmful chemical into the Huron River.   

Huron River

A view of the Huron River from Gallup Park in Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is warning people to avoid going into the Huron River and its tributaries in the Wixom area.

Several thousand gallons of liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium were released by Wixom auto parts manufacturer Tribar Technologies.

Hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen that is harmful to the eyes, skin and respiratory system. More than 5 miles of the Huron River are affected, including Kent Lake and Hubbell Pond. Officials says nobody should swim in, drink from or eat fish caught in those waters.

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy spokesperson Jill Greenberg says officials have expanded testing and are investigating when the chemical was released and why it took so long for the agency to be notified.

“Right now EGLE is conducting interviews with the company to create a timeline,” Greenberg says, “… and it’ll help us understand how things unfolded.”

Greenberg says it’s too early to consider punishment for the company.

“At this point, we’re just investigating and as that continues, if penalties are warranted, we will definitely consider those,” Greenberg says.

The Detroit News reported Wednesday that the City of Wixom issued a a cease-and-desist order to the company.

The liquid containing hexavalent chromium has already gone through wastewater treatment, but it’s unclear how much of the heavy metal has been removed. Testing downstream has not detected any hex-chrome, but more testing is underway.

Greenberg says there’s no threat to drinking water for the moment.

“So the closest drinking water intake is in Ann Arbor and the time of travel modeling that we have indicate that would take one to three months to make it to the city’s water intake,” Greenberg says. “The city of Ann Arbor has been notified. They’re very involved and aware of the release and they’re taking steps to monitor the incoming water.”

Tribar Technologies was already cited by EGLE for releasing PFAS into the Huron River a couple years ago.

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. Extended hotline hours will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.