A Michigan automotive supplier, Tribar Technologies, is responsible for contaminating the Huron River with a second toxic chemical spill. The company admitted to releasing "several thousand gallons" of waste containing 5% hexavalent chromium into the sewer system.
According to the CDC, hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that can cause many ailments, including skin ulcers, stomach tumors, and lung cancer.
Tribar officials are not sure exactly when the spill started, but believe it may have begun two days before they alerted authorities. The Michigan sewer system feeds into the city's wastewater treatment plant before releasing into the Huron River.
In 2018, the auto supplier was responsible for another spill. Tribar released PFAS contaminants into the Huron River. The accident initiated a "do not eat" fish advisory that was still in place at the time of the hexavalent chromium spill this week.
In response to the 2018 mishap, Tribar added mobile filtration systems to its Michigan facility. Tribar stated that the new system should "dramatically lower levels of PFAS leaving" the factory. At the time, people were told the fish advisory would soon be lifted, but that never happened.
The first incident did not stop residents from boating, swimming, or enjoying catch-and-release fishing. However, this week's spill forced Michigan to close 14 beaches. Locals are justifiably concerned about the potential contamination of the Ann Arbor water supply.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy released a statement on Tuesday recommending "no contact" with the Huron River system. It noted, "EGLE is taking river water samples from multiple areas downstream from the treatment plant today and is working with local and state health officials to assess the extent of the contamination."
The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, a political organization dedicated to "protecting your land, air, and water," spoke out about the incident. Michigan LCV executive director Lisa Wozniak blamed Tribar for taking two days to report the spill.
Wozniak stated, "This horrible news is a stark reminder that who we elect in November matters – and we need a Governor, Attorney General, and state Legislature that will take these polluters head-on, make them clean up their messes, and protect our health. Toxic contamination in our drinking water continues to afflict Michiganders and we're alarmed by the lack of attention on the campaign trail being dedicated to this tremendous threat – Democrats and Republicans alike."
Mayor Christopher Taylor called Tribar's repeated pollution of the Huron River "outrageous and entirely unacceptable." Taylor explained that the city has no regulatory power over the manufacturer. On Thursday, the Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously to explore all possible legal courses of action.