On August 31, 2020, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court partially lifted the confidentiality restriction against disclosure of the negotiations between Gelman Sciences, the State of Michigan and the intervenors (City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Washtenaw County and its Health Department, and the Huron River Watershed Council). The proposed settlement documents that resulted from these negotiations are now public and can be viewed via a
document repository webpage. The proposed documents, which still need to be voted on by the intervenors, include the Fourth Amendment to the 1992 Consent Judgment, Dismissal Order, and Settlement Agreements. Other documents and a set of videos that help with an understanding of the proposed settlement documents are also available on the repository webpage.
This Gelman 1,4-Dioxane Litigation webpage and the following frequently asked questions are intended to provide background and context, as well as additional information regarding the contents of these documents. It will explain the context of the latest negotiated settlement, illustrate the below timeline of activities over the life of both the litigation and cleanup, and answer many frequently asked questions including how community members can find more information and how they can provide input into upcoming decisions that will be made by elected officials of the intervening parties in the litigation.
March 2021 Update: In October 2020, Ann Arbor City Council, Scio Township, and Washtenaw County and its Health Department voted to reject the proposed 4th Amendment to the Consent Judgment and respective settlement agreements with each of the Intervenors. In November 2020, Ann Arbor City Council approved a resolution to ask Governor Whitmer to send a letter of concurrence to the EPA, and a letter was sent to Governor Whitmer in December 2020 requesting she send a letter to the EPA to let them know she concurred with listing the Gelman site on the National Priorities List under the Federal CERCLA program.
July 2021 Update:
• On April 12, 2021, the director of EGLE sent a letter requesting that EPA reinstate assessment of the Gelman site for the National Priorities Listing (NPL) process.
• EPA updates regarding the Gelman site can now be found on the EPA's website at www.epa.gov/mi/gelman-sciences and the 'frequently asked questions for the Gelman site is: www.epa.gov/mi/gelman-science-frequently-asked-questions.
• On May 3, 2021 Judge Connors held an evidentiary hearing regarding the Gelman plume cleanup.
• On June 1, 2021, as a result of the evidentiary hearing, and based on the legal briefs and technical reports that the parties had filed in advance of the hearing, the Judge Connors ordered Gelman to implement the requirements in the proposed fourth amended and restated consent judgment that had been made public after the negotiations concluded in the fall of 2020 (“Response Activity Order").
• Notice and Map of expanded Prohibition Zone (PZ) (PDF)
• Gelman filed a motion to partially stay the Response Activity Order pending appeal, which Judge Connors denied. Gelman then filed both a claim of appeal and an application for leave to appeal the Response Activity Order along with a motion for partial stay of proceedings pending appeal.
• On June 29, 2021, Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Murray dismissed the claim of appeal, deciding that the Response Activity Order does not constitute a final order and that Gelman has no direct appeal right. Gelman's application for leave to appeal and motion for partial stay remain pending.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Who is currently in charge of the cleanup?
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
2. What is 1,4-dioxane (“dioxane") and what are the potential health impacts that might result from exposure to it?
Dioxane is a manmade compound that mixes easily in water. It is used in industry as a solvent to manufacture other chemicals and it is a by-product in many items, including paint strippers, dyes, greases, antifreeze and aircraft deicing fluids. It also is found in other chemicals that are used to manufacture cosmetics, detergents, deodorants and shampoos.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that 1,4-dioxane is 'possibly carcinogenic' to humans because it is a known carcinogen in animals. USEPA states that it is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. More information on exposure to 1,4-dioxane and its health effects is availabe via a
State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Fact Sheet (PDF).
3. Where is the dioxane in the groundwater and how did it get there?
Dioxane was used from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s in the manufacturing processes at Gelman's facility on Wagner Road. Gelman's wastewater, containing dioxane, was disposed onsite during that time. In the mid-1980s dioxane was discovered offsite, in nearby surface waters and groundwater.
The groundwater in underground aquifers that is carrying dioxane is referred to as a plume. Multiple plumes have been spreading west in Scio Township and northeast then east into Ann Arbor, moving towards the Huron River. More information on dioxane and its location in the groundwater is located via a Washtenaw County Public Health Department Fact Sheet (PDF).
4. When was the original Consent Judgment established and what does it now require?
In 1992, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court entered a Consent Judgment regarding Gelman's dioxane contamination. Three amendments to the original Consent Judgment have been approved by the Court and are in effect.
The Consent Judgment and its amendments dictate the obligations of Gelman to investigate, clean up, contain and monitor the contaminated groundwater, under the direction of EGLE.
The Court did not require full cleanup of all of the released dioxane. As one example, the portion of the plume within the City of Ann Arbor and its projected pathway toward the Huron River, including buffer areas, is designated as the “Prohibition Zone." Because of existing and projected groundwater contamination within this zone, no uses of groundwater, such as residential wells for irrigation or other purposes, are permitted within this zone.
5. What is the Prohibition Zone (or “PZ") and how does it affect my property?
In the State vs. Gelman lawsuit, the Court approved a Prohibition Zone (“PZ") as an Institutional Control. This allows dioxane above the groundwater cleanup criterion to migrate, rather than be cleaned up, within the PZ. The “prohibition" part of the PZ title refers to a prohibition against installing or maintaining wells for drinking water or irrigation purposes on land within the PZ boundaries. All of the PZ is within the boundaries of the City of Ann Arbor, which requires all properties—regardless of where they are relative to the PZ—to connect to the city's municipal water supply system rather than get water from wells on their properties. The location of the PZ can be viewed on the
map (11.19 MB).
6. What is the current status of the cleanup effort?
Gelman has been pumping and treating groundwater contaminated with dioxane it released since the early 1990's. Gelman discharges the treated water into Honey Creek which is a tributary of the Huron River. The discharge is permitted by the State of Michigan through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
7. What is the Proposed Fourth Amendment and Restatement to the Consent Judgment and what is its current status?
Following EGLE's approval of a reduction of the groundwater cleanup criterion for dioxane from 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 7.2 ppb in October 2016, a proposed fourth amendment to and restatement of the Consent Judgment has been under negotiation between Gelman, the State of Michigan (EGLE), the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and its Health Department, Scio Township, and the Huron River Watershed Council since the spring of 2017. The result of this negotiation is the proposed Fourth Amendment to and Restatement of the Consent Judgment. The proposed fourth amendment and related documents, including a chart of key changes it proposes is available via the
document repository webpage.
8. What are the major elements included in the proposed Fourth Amendment and Restated Consent Judgment that are new?
The fourth amendment and restated consent judgment includes four significant elements:
- Additional monitoring and mapping of the contaminated groundwater
- Removal of additional dioxane from areas of high concentration downgradient of the source
- Removal/treatment of additional dioxane at the source area on the Gelman Property
- Expansion of the Prohibition Zone to protect public health
These elements are expected to result in an increasing of pump and treatment of groundwater by over 40 percent and an increase in removal of dioxane by over 200 percent. This will be completed by the installation of additional extraction wells as well as incorporation of two new treatment technologies for dioxane removal:
- Heated soil vapor extraction
9. If I would like more information about the proposed Fourth Amendment and Restated Consent Judgment, where can I find it?
There is a
document repository webpage with all the documents being considered by the Local Government Intervenors, including:
- The proposed Fourth Amended and Restated Consent Judgment
- Seven explanatory or educational videos prepared by Professor Lawrence D. Lemke
10. How is the city capturing public feedback?
There are several opportunities for the public to provide written or oral comments, including the following:
City Council Special Session Sept. 30: Ann Arbor City Council will hold a special session on Wednesday, Sept. 30 to hear public comments regarding the proposed settlement documents in Michigan Attorney General vs. Gelman Sciences, Inc., Case No. 88-34734-CE (Washtenaw
Circuit Court) Agenda and viewing information
Joint Public Meeting Sept. 24: A virtual public Q&A with Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, Ann Arbor City Council, Congresswoman Dingell and Intervenors' expert Dr. Lawrence Lemke was held via Zoom on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. This was an opportunity for elected officials to hear public input and for the public to get answers to questions regarding the Gelman Dioxane Plume Proposed Fourth Amended and Restated Consent Judgment.
View Agenda Due to the complex nature of the proposed consent judgement, the public was asked to submit questions to the city via email by Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. This allowed time for meaningful answers to be provided at the Q & A session.
EGLE Public Meeting Sept. 14: EGLE conducted a virtual public comment session related to the proposed amendments to the consent judgment on September 14. EGLE accepted written public comments until September 21. EGLE will publish its responses. You can sign up for updates from EGLE on its Gelman web page at
Questions? Written questions and comments to the city are welcome at any time by emailing
[email protected]. To the extent possible, responses to questions and comments submitted to the city will be provided to City Council and made available to the public.
11. If I submitted a question to
[email protected], will I receive a response?
Answers to questions provided before Sept. 18 will be provided during the Sept. 24 joint session, including a video display of relevant documentation by the intervenors’ expert Dr. Lawrence Lemke. The public can watch the Zoom meeting online
www.washenaw.org/webcast. Due to the number of questions and comments being received, the significant interest in this matter, and the amount of duplication or overlap, individuals will not be sent responses.
Answers to common questions may be added to this webpage as available.
Questions and comments submitted after the Sept. 24 meeting via the city’s email
[email protected] will be provided to City Council and made available to the public.
12. What are the next steps in advancing the cleanup effort?
The next steps in the cleanup effort are set out in, and are dependent on the fourth amendment to the Consent Judgment being approved and entered by the Court.
13. What decisions are impending, who will make them, and what is the timeline?
Prior to voting on the
Fourth Amended and Restated Consent Judgment for the Gelman Sciences site in
Ann Arbor and Scio Township, a virtual public Q&A with Washtenaw County
Board of Commissioners, Ann Arbor City Council, Congresswoman Dingell and
Intervenors' expert Dr. Lawrence Lemke was held via Zoom on Thursday, Sept. 24,
2020 at 6:30 p.m. This joint public session was an opportunity for elected
officials to hear public input and for the people to get answers to questions
regarding the Gelman Dioxane Plume Proposed Fourth Amended and Restated Consent
Judgment. Scio township trustees, Ann Arbor township and Huron River Watershed
Council leadership were invited to participate. See the
Document Repository webpage to review those documents.
In October 2020 Ann Arbor City Council, Scio Township, and Washtenaw County and its Health Department voted to reject the proposed 4th Amendment to the Consent Judgment and respective settlement agreements with each of the intervenors.
The parties have a court date on March 22, 2021 for the court to hear arguments on Gelman's Motion for Reconsideration of the court's order that had set a date for a hearing on the parties' positions and arguments regarding possible changes to the amended Consent Judgment now in effect. How the case proceeds and the next steps will depend on how the court rules on the motion for reconsideration.
14. Could the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take over the cleanup of the site?
EPA will typically not take over a site if it is being managed by a state agency, such as EGLE, and there is a polluter covering the clean-up costs. However, if the state governor requests that EPA take over the clean-up activities, then a three-year process would begin, during which EPA would determine whether it believes the site should be proposed for listing on the National Priorities List. Following this initial assessment, the EPA process to develop a cleanup plan for a newly listed site can take over a decade. EPA has stated that it does have emergency powers to demand immediate actions if there are actual unacceptable exposures to dioxane which EPA stated would be a threshold of 46 ppb in drinking water. In the case of the Gelman Plume, this threshold has not been exceeded so an emergency intervention would not be available for this site. Representatives of the EPA addressed these questions and more at a
community meeting on January 16, 2020. In December 2020,
Ann Arbor City Council sent a letter to Governor Whitmer requesting that she
petition the EPA to list the Gelman site on the National Priorities List under
the Federal CERCLA program.
A Gelman Community Information Session was held virtually on March 18, 2021. The meeting was organized by Representative Debbie Dingell and Washtenaw County. At the meeting, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) answered questions from the community and local officials around the status of the Plume and potential next steps.
On April 12, 2021 EGLE Director Liesl Clark sent a letter to Cheryl Newton, Action Regional Administrator for the USEPA Region 5 requesting that EPA reinitiate assessment of the Gelman site for the NPL listing process.
15. Where can I find more information about the use of phytoremediation for sites with 1,4-dioxane?
Technical information about projects where phytoremediation has been used on sites with 1,4-dioxane are available online. Less technical but still informative information is available on the website of the phytoremediation contractor Gelman will be using at http://treemediation.com. In particular, the Sarasota, Fla case study under “Projects & Results” describes the use of phytoremediation on a site with 1,4-dioxane, including photographs and diagrams of the project.