Crews dig near I-696 in Madison Heights to determine how far contamination spread

Soil samples taken

Samples sent to lab to determine how deep chemicals have spread
Samples sent to lab to determine how deep chemicals have spread

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – Digging along I-696 in Madison Heights continued as investigators work to determine the reach of the green ooze that was found seeping onto I-696 on Dec. 20.

Investigators were back at the site Monday to do more testing. The substance is believed to have been coming from the basement of the condemned Electro-Plating Services on 10 Mile Road, which was the site of a cleanup in 2016 due to improperly stored hazardous waste.

The business owner, Gary Sayers, reported to prison this weekend after he pleaded guilty to storing hazardous waste without a permit.

It was the Environmental Protection Agency’s job to remove the chemicals and around $1.5 million was spent to do so, but the case was handed over to the state of Michigan and then started slipping through the cracks. Monday, the EPA oversaw soil sampling. It hopes to get the test results by the end of the week.

Investigators drilled into the ground about 20 feet to get soil samples to determine how far the contamination has gone.

“They pound to ground when they bring it out -- it’s in a plastic sleeve -- cut open the sleeve so they can look at the soil type,” said Tricia Edwards, the EPA on scene coordinator.

The samples will be sent to a lab to determine how deep the hexavalent chromium and other chemicals have spread through the ground and through the water. Investigators can’t speculate how long the Madison Heights site has been leaking.

“We are looking at systems to pump the water around so we don’t have any further downstream impact,” Edwards said

The investigation has expanded to Deckerville, to a property Sayers owns, where officials said they found an increase in scrap metal and empty containers since a 2017 visit. Initial reports indicate no hazardous waste. An empty 300 gallon plastic tote was found in a creek on the property. State investigators said the water in the creek is clear.

State officials said the reason why the Madison Heights location fell through the cracks is because, at the time of the cleanup, the case had no impact on drinking water as the city is on a municipal water system. The site fell to the bottom of a list of thousands of sites in Michigan that need remediation.

Once soil sampling is done, a design for cleanup is expected to take a couple weeks and then cleanup can begin.

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About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.