How was known polluter allowed to mishandle hazardous waste until it leaked onto I-696 in Madison Heights?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer considering legal action

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – How did state officials allow a known polluter to continue mishandling hazardous waste to the point it was leaking onto I-696 in Madison Heights?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she’s considering legal action, but Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said it’s not just a green ooze problem, but also a state problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency knows the green ooze, which is contaminated groundwater, is in the storm drains, officials said.

There are many questions about the leak. How long has the hexavalent chromium been leaking? How far has it traveled? Why didn’t the state fall hard on the owner of the responsible business, who is already heading to prison in January for polluting?

It doesn’t take an expert to look at Electroplating Services and see that it’s a mess. The building is condemned and the basement is filled with hexavalent chromium. This is all after a federal and state clean-up in 2017. This year, state officials told feds that there was a low likelihood the hexavalent chromium would migrate off the business’ property.

Whitmer herself is now ordering a review of procedures, but it’s not a good look on the department formerly called the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which played a prominent part in the Flint water crisis.

EPA testing has showed no threat to drinking water, but Miller said this is going to take consistent sampling.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has had his staff sample drains in Warren, and so far, the results have been good.

It’s going to take time and money to clean up, officials said.

You can watch Mara MacDonald’s full story in the video posted above.

Here is a full statement from Miller:

"When I ran for the position of Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, I had one overarching goal -- to improve the water quality in Lake St. Clair so that future generations could enjoy the tremendous benefits of not only this lake but all of the magnificent Great Lakes system. Keeping our lake clean requires local, state and federal support. The case of the "green ooze" along I-696 represents a failure in this effort. Uncovered by media reports, the Michigan EGLE -- the very agency tasked with protecting our lake and our environment -- failed in its responsibility to ensure a contaminated business site in Madison Heights was properly cleaned up, despite this site having been a known offender for many years. Acting on this faulty state report, the US EPA took no further action to remediate this site. Now we have potential contamination spreading well beyond this single site in Madison Heights.

"Meanwhile, a project my office has been working on almost since the day I took office has now run into bureaucratic snags at the Michigan EGLE. We seek to expand and upgrade our Chapaton Retention Basin in St. Clair Shores to significantly reduce Combined Sewer Run-offs (CSO) into Lake St. Clair. Why? Because we believe the lake is best protected when we reduce the amount of sewage -- treated or otherwise -- that runs into the lake. Initially, EGLE supported this $30 million project by providing a $2 million grant. Now, EGLE is telling us that CSOs don’t impact water quality! "About 2 weeks ago -- about the time the green ooze was discovered coincidentally -- we were told by EGLE that the grant was no longer happening and that it appears unlikely a permit would be issued for the Chapaton project. Part of the reasoning, we are told by EGLE, is that if we reduce these CSO’s into Lake St. Clair, then other metro Detroit agencies would feel compelled to do the same. In other words, we shouldn’t clean up the lake because others would then have to spend money to do so as well.

“It would be very helpful to the lake and our environment if EGLE evaluated how their efforts have been working as a whole, eliminating where they work at cross purposes.”

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