West Side cancer risk blamed on plant's pollution

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The neighborhood in Michigan with the highest risk for cancer caused by air pollution is on Grand Rapids' West Side, the state said on Thursday.

The state blames it on emissions of a known carcinogen from Viant Medical at 520 Watson St. SW near Lexington Avenue.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is working with the Massachusetts-based company to clean it up.

The plant is wedged between an older neighborhood and the downtown Grand Valley State University campus and student housing.

"This area near this facility is the highest in the state for total cancer risk posed over a lifetime of exposure due to air pollutants," Robert Sills, a supervisor with the DEQ's Air Quality Division.

He said it does not pose a short-term threat.

"We're not recommending that people do anything differently in their lifestyle or their activities to try to reduce their exposure, or leave the area or anything of that nature," Sills said. "We just want them to be aware that this issue is going on in their community and that we're working with the company and the other agencies to address it."

He said the state is working with the EPA and the Kent County Health Department. In a statement, Viant said the company is working closely with the DEQ.

The state recently notified Viant that it was in violation because it was polluting the air with ethyline oxide, a known carcinogen. It also issued a violation last July.

The state on Jan. 4 gave the company two weeks to respond.

Viant uses ethyline oxide to sterilize medical equipment, something that's been done at the factory since the mid-1980s, state officials said.

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