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Crews working to determine source of chemical spill causing sheen on Huron River tributary in Flat Rock

Posted at 3:21 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 01:56:07-05

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Officials in Flat Rock are dealing with some sort of chemical spill in a tributary of the Huron River.

The source or type of spill has not yet been determined. Mayor Mark Hammond says they have collected samples and are awaiting test results. Hammond describes the substance as a hydrocarbon type that smells like kerosene or gasoline. He says they have no indication yet on what the source may be.

The mayor says the nearby Flat Rock Metal has been ruled out as a source. Officials are keeping a closed eye on the business though to see if it is affected by the chemicals in the nearby water.

Flat Rock Metal released this statement about the chemical spill on March 2:

At Flat Rock Metal, safety and quality, in every respect, are our top priorities.

When we found out about the possibility of oil in the river, we committed to solving that mystery. We immediately began working with state and federal regulators and hired an environmental consultant and response contractors so that we could help discover what happened as quickly as possible.

What we discovered was an underground fuel oil storage tank, beneath the property where we have been located since the 1980s. It dates back far as 100 years, to when this was a factory built, owned, and operated by Ford. We had no record of the tank, nor did the State of Michigan.

Our company did not and could not have created any issues with this hidden tank. Now, all we can do is address the tank and contain and dispose of any fuel oil that was in it. We are dedicated to continuing to work with authorities to ensure our environment and community are safe.

Officials were notified about the situation around 6 pm Monday when 911 calls were received reporting a sheen on a tributary of the river that smelled like gasoline or fuel oil. Both the fire department and police responded and deployed a containment boom. The EPA was also brought in.

Hammond says they made efforts to contain and clean up the spill last night but broke off efforts when conditions became too harsh to continue into the night. Crews returned in the morning and found the spill continuing and increasing.

Hammond says at this time there is no danger to the public. He says Huroc Park was closed out of an abundance of caution due to the presence of heavy equipment on the scene. He also says the animal shelter was evacuated because of the situation, but that all of the animals are being well cared for.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, whose current district covers Flat Rock, issued the following statement about the situation:

I’ve been on the phone with the Mayor, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Michigan given reports of a chemical leak in Flat Rock. Right now, the EPA and EGLE are investigating and have deployed emergency responders to quickly determine the source of the leak. My office will remain in close contact with all necessary federal, state, and local officials and we are monitoring this situation closely. We will ensure information is readily available and communicated effectively as soon as we have more details on this emergency response situation.

This is the second environmental incident to occur in less than a year in the Downriver community. A gas leak originating at the Ford Flat Rock assembly plant in late 2021 forced hundreds of people to evacuate for several weeks.