NewsRegionWayne County

EPA and EGLE say chemical spill in Flat Rock is contained, but source remains mystery

Posted at 8:25 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 20:25:30-05

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WXYZ)  — The EPA collected more samples Wednesday and shipped them to an out-of-state lab. The goal is to find out what the oil-like chemical is that is seeping into a backchannel connected to the Huron River.

This is happening in Flat Rock, a community still traumatized by a benzene leak at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant in September. The past event forced many to leave their homes for weeks due to safety concerns.

Now residents want to know what is in the river their community is built around.

“Everybody loves the river,” said Jamie Warren, Atwater Street Tacos Manager Trainee.

Tricia Edwards with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says they can see a substance that appears to be some kind of oil bubbling up from the water, just downstream from a bridge over a back channel that fortunately does not rapidly flow into the river.

“Where we see it bubbling up is just downstream of the bridge,” said Edwards.

The leak was found by fishermen earlier this week. It is not known how long it has been flowing or how far the chemicals have spread.

Jill Greenberg from the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy says the good news is teams believe they have contained it with barriers in the backchannel. The backchannel current also tends to be slower than the river’s, potentially decreasing spread.

“We are still trying to determine the source. It is an active leak,” said Greenberg.

The EPA’s team contacted pipeline companies, who shut down their lines and tested for leaks. They found no problems. The EPA inspected a nearby factory and found no evidence of a leak.

They have found no evidence the chemical spill is causing an immediate health risk to residents.

“We have been doing regular air monitoring there throughout the day. In the residential and business areas, we haven’t seen anything. We have some slight volatile organic compounds where the oil accumulates, but it is not a hazard to the residents,” said Edwards.

Crews are pumping the sheen out of the river and continuing work to figure out exactly where it is coming from. They say completing a response to this will not be a quick task.