(WXYZ) — On one of the hottest days this week, Kent Lake inside Kensington Metropark was empty.
Boaters and swimmers have all been told to stay away from the Huron River waters and connected lakes after state officials say Tribar Manufacturing released highly toxic hexavalent chromium into the Wixom Sewage Treatment facility.
“This is infamously the ‘Erin Brockovich’ chemical. It’s nasty stuff,” said Daniel Brown, a Watershed Planner with the Huron River Watershed Council. “Hexavalent chromium is toxic through all exposure pathways. So you don’t want to breathe it in, you don’t want to make contact with it you definitely don’t want to drink it.”
Brown wants to know why the initial emergency report from the plant was recorded at 8 am Monday, but not sent until 3:21 pm to Michigan’s Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“It is their responsibility to keep it from happening. But we do need to understand exactly what the failure was, what happened, and why it took so long to notify EGLE,” said Brown.
EGLE teams are also investigating whether the discharge actually started on Saturday, potentially putting those who used the lakes and river over the weekend at risk.
“We’re trying to find out exactly how much came out of there, whether all of it went through the wastewater treatment plant or some of it may have been caught – we’re not sure yet, but that’s ongoing,” said Hugh McDiarmid, Communications Manager for EGLE
This is far from the first problem with Tribar Manufacturing.
The 7 Investigators discovered an air quality violation from last fall related to metal treating tanks at the auto parts supplier.
While the hexavalent chromium discharge appears to have come from Plant 5, another of Tribar’s plants has had problems with PFAS, the cancer-causing forever chemicals.
Starting in 2018, EGLE started investigating those discharges and issued violation notices to Tribar Manufacturing.
“They are the reason there is a ‘do not eat fish’ advisory on most of the Huron River due to the PFAS contamination,” said Brown. “Tribar Manufacturing has really demonstrated repeated negligence toward the Huron River, the ecosystem in southeast Michigan and towards the public health of their neighbors… This new contamination with hexavalent chromium really feels like we’re really being kicked while we’re down because are still dealing with the fallout from PFAS.”
“We are doing everything we can to protect public health and the environment from these sorts of disasters, and I think that time will tell, and the investigation will tell why this happened, and what could have been done to prevent it more,” said McDiarmid. “We have expanded the testing. Today, we had a couple samples come back today that were non-detect for hexavalent chromium but two samples doesn’t really tell very much. We need a much more robust sampling plan. Today we’re bringing 9 samples back to the lab and should have those results tomorrow morning sometime.”
The 7 Investigators have been trying to get in touch with Tribar Manufacturing, so far no one has returned our calls or emails.
Meanwhile, EGLE’s investigation into the discharge of hexavalent chromium continues.