Chemical closes Franklin strip mall due to air quality concerns

MDEQ discovers storage tank filled with unknown chemicals

By Jason Colthorp - Anchor/Reporter, Derick Hutchinson

FRANKLIN, Mich. - The discovery of a storage tank filled with unknown chemicals has forced the Franklin Village Plaza to close as scientists work to identify the substance.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality discovered ground contamination from a gas station and dry cleaner that operated on the site from the 1940s to the 1970s.

A startling air sample led to the discovery of the storage tank, and officials in full protective gear collected a sample of the chemical.

Ground contamination at the plaza and Franklin has shown high levels of perchloroethylene, or PCE, a chemical long used by dry cleaners.

While moving to clean that up and make sure it didn't get to water sources, the MDEQ tested the air.

"The number for PCE that over which action would be needed is 80," MDEQ's Kim Ethridge said. "One of the indoor samples collected was 600."

The level is high, but it's short of lethal levels. But the MDEQ found the source, a 4 by 2 tank in a crawl space beneath one of the businesses. After sealing it up the MDEQ evacuated the businesses.

Franklin Village Boutique owner Terri Cassels Cooper isn't worried about the health dangers, weven as air filters roar.

"It's a week or two or three of zero business," Cooper said.

Her cat, Frankie, is fine, and he's there all the time. But for the unforeseen future, there won't be any customers.

"People want clothes for their spring break and ... I'm trying to keep my wits about me," Cooper said.

As this situation continues for the four businesses, it's impacting others, especially those across the street. They aren't in any danger, but people don't know that.

"People keep texting us," Monica George said.

"People think the whole town is closed," Mary Ann Liute said. "We just want them to know that all the businesses in Downtown Franklin are not affected."

"We're going to get through it," Zieben Mare said. "Hopefully it's just a blip on the screen. I'm just glad we found out about it."

The MDEQ suspects the culprit is PCE and will know for sure within 48 hours. PCE is s suspected carcinogen known to cause mood disorders and kidney problems, and right now the MDEQ doesn't know how many years it's been in the air exposed to people in the businesses.

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