EPA goes home-to-home in Flat Rock to detect fume levels after gas leak

Residents forced from their homes without knowing when they can safely return

EPA fume detection tool moving from house-to-house in Flat Rock

FLAT ROCK, Mich. – Officials with the United States Environmental Protection Agency measured the levels of toxic benzene gas house-by-house Thursday in Flat Rock.

The gas came from an underground fuel leak at a nearby Ford Motor Company plant.

More than 1,000 homes have been evacuated in parts of Flat Rock as the EPA continues testing.

The EPA’s Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer -- one of two mobile labs in the country -- is in Flat Rock. Officials are using it to detect fumes from the Ford plant.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has been investigating the leak.

On Monday, Aug. 30, fumes were discovered in Flat Rock sewers and homes. Two days later on Wednesday, Sept. 1, EGLE officials visited the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant as a part of its investigation into the fumes.

“When EGLE was on site, Wednesday, it was part of a walk. EGLE was reaching out to gas stations, businesses anyone related to odor and Benzene detection,” said Jill Greenberg, with EGLE. “When we went Wednesday, we didn’t see anything, that’s because it was underground.”

The next day, Thursday, Sept. 2, an EGLE employee received an anonymous text tipping officials off to the leak and investigators returned to the Ford plant.

“We had this anonymous tip,” Greenberg said. “We went back to Ford and when we showed up, they said, ‘Oh, we just filed a pollution emergency report with EGLE.’”

At the time, Ford said they discovered the leak Wednesday, Sept. 1, but they said they believed the spill was contained to the plant.

EGLE is processing Ford’s request to authorize the use of dye for dye-testing their sewer piping as part of their investigation. The dye may help determine exactly what route the gasoline took to enter the municipal sewer system and inform measures to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

EGLE issued a compliance communication Thursday that requires Ford Motor Company to mitigate all immediate risks and hazards from the gasoline leak, conduct a full and thorough investigation of the leak and its circumstances and provide EGLE daily updates on the investigation. EGLE said much of this is already underway by Ford.

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.