Officials identify chemicals that caused businesses to close Franklin Village Plaza

Chemicals to be removed on Tuesday

FRANKLIN, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality identified the chemicals found in a storage tank underneath Franklin Village Plaza that forced five businesses to close.

Officials said they found tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and petroleum byproducts associated with the previous dry cleaner and gas station that were located on the property.

The MDEQ emptied the chemicals from the tank. The top half of the tank was removed while the bottom half was left in place and filled in to maintain structural integrity, officials said.

"The mandatory evacuation remains in effect," Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County Health Division, said. "Further air-quality testing is required and will continue throughout the weekend to assure the vapor intrusion has been resolved and to determine whether additional remediation is necessary."

MDEQ will collect soil, groundwater and vapor samples over the coming months to make sure the area is safe. Air scrubbers will run inside the businesses to further safeguard indoor air until a permanent mitigation system is installed.

Business owners demand answers

After being forced to close due to concerns about chemicals, business owners in Franklin demanded answers about the situation.

Results came back at 4 p.m. Monday on the volatile chemicals found in a storage tank. As officials expected, it was PCE once used by dry cleaners and old fuel oil. It will be removed from the strip mall on Tuesday.

But business owners past and present at the plaza wanted answers at a village meeting.

The Franklin Council meeting was standing room only as questions about contamination were answered by the Department of Environmental Quality and the county Health Department.

"We have an emergency plan," Kim Eldridge, of the Department of Environmental Quality, said.

Questions were emotional and angry as business owners wondered who knew what.

"I am actually so livid after that meeting," former business owner Lauren Slutsky said.

Village officials said they learned of the contamination this month, but the Department of Environmental Quality said the current owner knew in 2010 when she did her due diligence in buying the property.

"Knowing that the building that I rented was contaminated in 2010, she knew the groundwater and soil was contaminated and decided to keep it to herself," Slutsky said.

"I have students, young girls, working for me who can have babies, and now I'm worried for them," Jane Depotter, of Fritz and Friends, said. "They have been exposed to these chemicals."

Fritz and Friends is where the contamination was highest, and the owner said she doesn't see how they can stay open. She plans to close the business.

The Department of Environmental Quality plans to remove the chemicals on Tuesday.

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