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Cancer-causing hexavalent chromium spill affects Huron River businesses

Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 22:38:23-04

WIXOM, Mich. (WXYZ) — State investigators are sampling nine locations along the Huron River Wednesday for the cancer-causing compound, hexavalent chromium.

The state says over the weekend Tribar's Wixom facility released several thousand gallons of liquid containing hexavalent chromium to the Wixom Sewage Treatment Facility.

The sewer feeds to the Wixom wastewater treatment plant which discharges to the Huron River.

The Huron River feeds into numerous bodies of water including Kent Lake where 7 Action News met Alan Heavner, President and CEO of Heavner Nature Connection.

Heavner told our team, "The source is coming out of the North drain which is just upstream from where we launch our canoes."

Heavner says his canoe rental business has already lost 80% of their business for the upcoming weekend as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has told people to avoid contact with the Huron River due to the spill.

Steven Brown, City Manager of the City of Wixom said; "This hexavalent chromium is a nasty compound and people have been recommended to stay out of the water, keep your pets out of the water. If you’re using water from the system between North Wixom Road and Kensignton Road, any form of water from there, don’t use it to water your lawns anymore either because that’s a potential issue."

"Even if they go on and say it’s only gonna be 2 or 3 weeks, the stigma of this will stay with people for a long time," said Heavner.

The water restrictions include Norton Creek, downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant, Hubbell Pond, and Kent Lake.

Hexavalent chromium is a toxic compound and has been linked to lung cancer as well as a host of other issues.

Amy McMillan, Director of Huron-Clinton Metro Parks, told our teams; "At this time, we believe that this is only affecting us here at Kensington. Again, because we don’t have any sampling data, we can’t tell you for a fact that it is affecting us here at Kensington, we are acting out of an abundance of caution because we are directly downstream from the spill."

State investigators are continuing to widen their water sampling effort with more results coming in on Thursday.

While we wait for those, a long-term testing plan is being developed for the coming days and weeks.

Heavner wants people to know some areas are still safe to canoe in, "This is very, very, very important to know. We still can launch going upstream. People can go up to Proud Lake."

"Our first concern is always about the health of the humans who come to the park, but we are also concerned about the health of the wildlife and the health of the plant life," said McMillan. "I am sad and angry that we find ourselves in this position."

Two tests taken Tuesday at the mouth of Norton Creek and on the Huron River came back negative for hexavalent chromium, but officials stress that those samples aren't enough to draw any conclusions about the potential effects of the pollutant.