Flat Rock fuel leak: Homeowners wait for ‘all-clear’ as state investigates Ford assembly plant

Underground storage tank at Ford Flat Rock assembly plant to blame

EPA ramps up home testing in Flat Rock as toxic gas levels decline in sewers.
EPA ramps up home testing in Flat Rock as toxic gas levels decline in sewers.

FLAT ROCK, Mich. – Inspectors believe an underground storage tank at the Ford Flat Rock assembly plant is to blame for the gas leak impacting Flat Rock.

EGLE first received a report of gas in the sanitary sewer and began investigating the report on Aug. 31. The next day EGLE performed a walkthrough of the Ford facility but the leak went unnoticed.

EGLE said it received an anonymous tip that led them to return to Ford. That’s when the company informed EGLE it had discovered a leak after the inspector left the day before. Ford said it believed the spill was contained to its property. The spill was not contained to the property.

There are 1,100 homes in the “area of concern” and people living there have been asked to voluntarily evacuate the area.

“We decided we are going to check in to the hotel for the safety of the kids,” resident Aurora Kuta said.

Initially she wasn’t going to evacuate her family from Flat Rock, but she has since changed her mind.

As of Wednesday, the toxic benzene levels are low in Flat Rocks’ sewer system. The focus is on testing and clearing the 1,100 homes in two areas of Flat Rock with an EPA air quality testing truck.

Read: Here’s what inspection records say about underground fuel tank leak in Flat Rock

Flat Rock fuel leak: Homeowners wait for 'all-clear' as Michigan weighs Ford fines
Flat Rock fuel leak: Homeowners wait for 'all-clear' as Michigan weighs Ford fines

EGLE has also started testing the water to ensure that it is safe as the fuel in the sewer lines gets cleaned up. EGLE will also start to closely look at Ford and may impose fines after their investigation.

“When are they going to have it all cleaned up?” Flat Rock resident Viola Humphriss said.

Humphriss said she feels good and is not going to evacuate the area. So far more than 500 vouchers have been given to Flat Rock homeowners for them to stay at hotels.

Humphriss wants to know when the all-clear will be given.

“Ongoing monitoring shows benzene levels are at trace levels,” Jill Greenberg, with EGLE, said.

Ford has apologized for the gas leak. EGLE is investigating when exactly it was discovered and who was notified.



About the Authors:

Shawn Ley is an Emmy-Award winning reporter. In more than 20 years covering stories in television news, Shawn’s reporting has taken him from war-torn eastern Europe, to reporting from an F-16 fighter jet and now to the fast and furious breaking news of Detroit.

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