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State continues water testing after traces of toxin found in Milford's Hubbell Pond


Testing for hexavalent chromium continued on waters in the Hubbell Pond area in Milford on Friday after a tests done on Thursday revealed low levels of the toxic substance in the pond. 

Two test samples taken from the pond on Thursday showed levels of the pollutant at or below state safety standards. The samples registered 11 parts per billion at the surface, and 9 parts per billon near the bottom.

The state's "chronic aquatic life value" for hexavalent chromium, meant to guard against long-term exposure, is 11 parts per billion; the "acute aquatic life value," for short-term exposures, is 16 parts per billion. 

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has been searching for the toxin in the Huron River and related waterways after Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom discharged liquid last weekend that contained 5% hexavalent chromium into the sanitary sewer system near the plant. Wastewater discharges from the Wixom facility to Norton Creek, which flows into the Huron River system.

Hexavalent chromium is a potent cancer-causing material. The state issued a no-contact order Tuesday for the Huron River between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County, recommending people and pets avoid touching the water, using it to water plants or eating fish from the river. 

On Friday, two crews from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy sampled waters upstream, downstream and within the pond to gather more information about the potential location of the toxin.

On Saturday, state officials issued a press release saying that after a review of data Friday evening and Saturday morning the boundaries of the current no-contact recommendation for Huron River system waters would remain in place until further notice.

"Of 69 water samples collected throughout 42 river miles during the week, three came back with detections of hexavalent chromium — two detections in Milford’s Hubbell Pond and one in the middle of Kent Lake," officials said.

"The Kent Lake detection, completed by lab analysis late Friday — was 5 parts per billion (ppb) — just at the detectable limit of 5 ppb."

Investigators are also testing sewage material within the Wixom treatment plant to determine if contamination remains bound up with the sludge inside the plant, the release said.

Officials stressed that more data is needed to develop a more complete picture of of the location, movement, and concentration of the contaminant.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

State health officials recommend that, until further notice, people and pets avoid contact with parts of the Huron River and other waterways in an area that includes parts of  Wayne, Oakland and Livingston counties.

Water to avoid includes the Huron River between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County, as well as Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakland County, Hubbell Pond in Oakland County, also known as Mill Pond, and Kent Lake in Oakland and Livingston counties.

"As additional water test results are received, MDHHS may expand this recommendation to other areas of the Huron River," the department stated in a press release. 

The department's health warnings include:

  • Don’t swim in, wade in, play in or drink water directly from the Huron River.
  • Don’t water your plants or lawn with Huron River water.
  • Don’t eat fish caught in this section of the Huron River. 

MDHHS and EGLE officials stressed that properly constructed and permitted drinking water wells should not be directly influenced by surface water, and therefore, are unlikely to be contaminated by chromium from the river. 

"Hexavalent chromium from this release is unlikely to enter the groundwater," officials said in the release. "Unpermitted driven sand points and submerged irrigation pumps installed by property owners along the river may be vulnerable and should never be used for drinking water."

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @kbouffardDN

MDHHS Toxic Hotline

For questions about potential health effects or exposures, call 800-648-6942, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; the line will also be open for extended hours this weekend, from 8 am to 5 p.m, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 6-7.

EGLE Environmental Assistance Center

For a single point of entry into the agency’s programs visit EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov or call 800-662-9278.