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Underground fuel tank found as officials investigate spill in Huron River tributary

Flat Rock spill
Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 01:55:12-05

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WXYZ) — For the first time, a major development has happened in the investigation into a spill of unknown fuel found in a backchannel to the Huron River in Flat Rock.

It’s been 10 days since the discovery of a fuel-type substance in the water. Now, a local company is responding to investigators, finding an underground fuel tank dating back 100 years.

Customers at the popular Wimpy Burger say it comes at a time when many remain worried about nearby Huroc Park that’s closed as the state and Environmental Protection Agency investigate.

The original finding was made by a fisherman, who recalled seeing what looked and smelled like fuel.

“With the park closed, there’s nothing to do. People aren’t walking, jogging or riding their bikes.” Wimpy Burger owner Steve Marzouq said.

Mayor Mark Hammond says after ground penetrating radar was used, they’ve found a massive underground tank could be the source.

“It’s hard to say how big it is based on age but could be 8,000 to 10,000 gallons.” Hammond said. “Flat Rock Metal has been an open book ever since we got there. They let us into the catacombs & basements.”

The city says no safety issues exist that could endanger people. In a statement from Flat Rock Metal, the company says:

“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.”

- Flat Rock Metal

All this comes after a gas leak from Ford Flat Rock Assembly in late 2021 led to evacuation for several hundred people. In this case, 7 Action News also contacted Ford, which released a statement:

“We’re hearing this for the first time and don’t know whether any of it’s accurate. Ford’s involvement with this site ended more than 70 years ago. We understand there have been at least two owners since then.”

- Ford Motor Company

Another update is expected in the next couple of weeks. We’ll bring those latest developments to you as soon as they happen.