- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s environmental protection department has created stricter exposure criteria for a toxic chemical, citing concerns about a dangerous chemical plume that has been spreading underneath Ann Arbor and Scio Township for decades.

The state Department of Environmental Quality issued a “finding of emergency” Thursday that establishes a lower threshold to initiate a chemical cleanup than rules created in 2002. The emergency is effective immediately and will last for six months.

The emergency order states plainly that the current exposure criteria for dioxane “are outdated and are not protective of public health.”

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said Thursday that the city intends to go to court to work out cleanup at the former Gelman Sciences site. He said the new standards enable the city to take important steps.

Department director Heidi Grether says the move was prompted by concern that vapors from a chemical called 1,4-Dioxane could intrude into nearby residences. She says there isn’t a severe threat currently.

“Our recent testing of shallow groundwater in Ann Arbor confirms the presence of contamination a significant distance from the heart of the plume. While there is no acute threat at this time, issuing these emergency rules is the responsible thing to do as we seek to put public health first and foremost in everything we do,” Grether said.

The move was welcomed on Thursday by local officials who consider it a step in the right direction, but they’re still hoping the DEQ will take the new standards and fight for a better cleanup of the Gelman plume in court.

Local and state officials are planning to meet with residents to discuss concerns about the Gelman plume and the recent findings during a town hall meeting on Oct. 27.

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