- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

DETROIT, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Employees of Detroit Edison were exposed to drinking water contaminated with a toxic chemical for at least five years, the utility said in a report.

A 39-page final report released on Monday confirmed drinking water at the Belle River power plant contained hydrazine, a chemical used to prevent corrosion in boilers that has been linked to colon cancer in laboratory animals.

The study documents the time, location and magnitude of the contamination that may have exposed hundreds of workers to the carcinogen between summer 1984 and August 1989. It was sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Detroit News said the utility continues to use hydrazine in boilers at some plants.

A five-month investigation found hydrazine first backed up into the plant's drinking water system in the Unit 2 Power Block through an improper and unauthorized connection to the plant's water heating system.

Ice cubes from a plant icemaker tested positive for hydrazine in 1989 and the chemical was found in common areas where workers washed their hands, showered and prepared food. The chemical also turned up in plant drinking fountains and wasn't completely eliminated until the potable water system was repeatedly flushed.

The report did not say how much of the chemical got into the plant's water system or how many workers were affected. Former employees were highly critical of the study.

"They're trying to hide the gun that killed these guys," Gary Haviland, a former instrument technician told The Times Herald of Port Huron, Mich.

Union officials said plant workers raised $5,000 last week for autopsy on a 45-year-old employee who died of colon cancer on Feb. 10.

"We recognize there are some people that will be very dissatisfied with the report," said an Edison spokeswoman. "There are some areas that, in an effort not to speculate, those answers aren't there."



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