A Howell-based company at the order of the state has stopped using a degreaser that is likely causing elevated levels of a chemical found in the air near the facility.

Diamond Chrome Plating, located at 604 South Michigan Ave. in Howell, uses a chemical called trichloroethylene, or TCE, in its manufacturing operations, specifically for removing grease from metal parts. A press release issued by the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) Tuesday afternoon states that there is concern that TCE has moved from Diamond Chrome Plating into the outdoor air and into nearby buildings. TCE in the environment at certain levels may cause health risks, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin.

Sutfin says exposure to TCE does not mean someone will necessarily have health issues now or in the future. A person’s risk of developing health effects depends on how much TCE they breathe, how long they breathe it, and how their body reacts to it. Citing studies that were performed on animals to determine how the chemical could affect humans, Sutfin says it was found that if a person were to breathe TCE in during pregnancy, it can cause heart defects in developing fetuses. It can also affect the immune system if breathed in over a long period of time, and can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or liver cancer.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) recently requested that Diamond Chrome Plating address compliance issues identified with its new degreaser. The degreaser operations and handling of TCE must be done in a way that keeps TCE from exiting the building into the outdoor air. TCE was found in the outdoor air which indicated the degreaser is not operating properly. Sutfin says the company has signed a consent decree agreeing to resolve the air quality violations. Diamond Chrome Plating has turned the degreaser off and is exploring other options.

MDHHS, EGLE, and the LCHD, will also be holding a public meeting for the community on the issue this Thursday at Parker Middle School from 7 to 9pm. Sutfin says the meeting will serve to answer residents’ questions, provide information, and assist in EGLE’s investigation into the contamination. (DK)