News Feature | August 9, 2022

Toxic Chemical Release Approaching Ann Arbor Drinking Water Intake

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


While officials have been clear that there is no immediate threat to consumers, a significant contamination event in Michigan impacted a major city’s drinking water source and demonstrated just how serious such events can be.

“Ann Arbor officials are assuring residents the city’s water is still safe to drink for now following a toxic chemical release into the Huron River, the city’s main drinking water source,” MLive reported. “Michigan’s state health and environmental regulatory departments are working with local officials to implement plans to address the situation and there’s also a police investigation.”

The toxic contaminant hexavalent chromium was released by Tribar Manufacturing, which notified state regulators after it found that it had discharged thousands of gallons of untreated discharge containing the substance. But that discovery wasn’t made until several days after the discharge had started, and much of the wastewater had already passed through the local treatment plant and into the river by then.

Despite official assurances that the source water is safe, consumers have raised concerns.

“Everyone is so concerned. We have received so many emails and calls with questions about it,” said Cherly Saam, a recreation supervisor in the area, per WXYZ Detroit. “How much chemical is in the river? Is it going to be diluted enough by the time it gets down here that it’s not a concern? I don’t know.”

As the situation developed, Ann Arbor increased its monitoring of the Huron to keep tabs on the chromium plume and its proximity to the drinking water intake. Drinking water treatment officials also developed a chromium removal plan in case it would become necessary.

And officials assured the public that, following this contamination event, the polluter would be held accountable.

“Once this event has passed, the city will be evaluating options for ensuring its water supply is adequately protected from future contamination events,” said Brian Steglitz, the water plant manager for Ann Arbor, according to MLive.

To read more about how drinking water treatment operations react to major source water contamination, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.