×

Man blamed for green I-696 ooze left barrels on Thumb land

MARION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Environmental regulators found barrels scattered across land in Michigan’s Thumb region that’s owned by the now-imprisoned owner of a shuttered electroplating business that leaked a green substance containing a known cancer-causing contaminant onto the shoulder of a suburban Detroit freeway last month.

Employees with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy found on Tuesday 55-gallon (208-liter) barrels, including one labeled for the toxic chemical trichloroethylene, at property owned by Gary Sayers in Sanilac County’s Marion Township.

Results of soil and water samples the agency collected at that site are now being tested for the potential presence of a variety of industry-related contaminants, EGLE spokeswoman Jill Greenberg said. The testing could take at least a week to be completed, she said.

Marion Township trustee Jon Block said at a township board meeting Tuesday that EGLE staff has indicated that the barrels were found empty and had been for “quite some time,” the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

“Any resident anywhere near that property would be on a private well,” Block said. “There was discussion that the county could probably help in making sure those wells get tested immediately, while we’re awaiting results on whether or not there is contamination.”

Sayers owns Electro-Plating Services Inc., a now-closed chrome-plating company in suburban Detroit blamed for a green, hexavalent chromium-laden goo seeping onto the I-696 freeway late last month.

An inspection found high levels of multiple contaminants in soil and groundwater at the old industrial site located in Madison Heights, according to state regulators. Hexavalent chromium is associated with cancer, kidney and liver damage, among other health effects.

Sayers pleaded guilty to illegal storage of hazardous waste last February and was sentenced to a year in federal prison.

Cleanup efforts are continuing in Madison Heights, leaving an eastbound lane on I-696 closed. More than 11,000 gallons of contaminants have been removed so far, Greenberg said.

“It’s working — we’re getting it out,” she said. “Our next step is to determine where the contaminant has migrated to. Is it moving? Has it stopped? And what contaminants are in the ground.”