Samples taken as investigation into Madison Heights contamination site moves forward

Almost 11,000 gallons of contaminated water collected from site

Cleanup in full swing at green ooze site in Madison Heights

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – Groundwater and soil samples were taken Friday from the Electro-Plating Services contamination site in Madison Heights as part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initial site characterization.

That work will help determine the extent and levels of contamination and help inform a more permanent solution to protect the environment and human health.

Twenty-five wells for testing were drilled on and near the site. That data will also help analysts evaluate the contamination.

Read: Official releases statement addressing major concerns on Madison Heights contamination site

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EPA officials said they are expediting test results, which are expected to be available in one to two weeks. Additional testing and investigation are likely to be based on the results of the initial analyses.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) on Thursday sampled water at the point where the affected sewer system surfaces at Bear Creek to determine levels of contaminants entering the creek. That water eventually flows into the Clinton River and then Lake St. Clair. Those results should be available late next week. Chemicals tested for include hexavalent chromium and other heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and cyanide.

The EPA also reported that the two sump wells installed just prior to Christmas have collected almost 11,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater from beneath the facility and on the highway embankment where the contamination was discovered on Dec. 20. The sump well located in the hand-dug pit in the basement – where the facility’s owner illegally stored hazardous materials – has recovered 9,264 gallons, while the embankment sump has collected 1,345 gallons of liquid that otherwise would have entered the storm sewer system.

Although all nearby homes and businesses are on municipal water systems – and not wells that might be affected by the contaminants – local officials are working with EGLE to conduct drinking water testing as a precaution.

The site was the focus of a multi-agency response Dec. 20 after green liquid – later identified as groundwater mixed with hexavalent chromium and other contaminants – was found seeping through a highway embankment along the I-696 expressway. Responders from the EPA and EGLE secured the site and installed sump pumps to capture and store contaminated groundwater.

EGLE Director Liesl Clark said the Electro-Plating situation is among thousands of contaminated sites that need to be more fully addressed and that a formal review of EGLE’s pollution inspection procedures is underway, as requested by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“This situation highlights a long-term challenge that we must meet,” said Clark. “Thousands of contaminated properties exist in Michigan, many having languished for decades without appropriate assessment or cleanup. That’s unacceptable in a state surrounded by almost 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

“We must clean up contaminated sites sooner. We must chase root causes, rather than symptoms of industrial pollution. Polluters must more aggressively address messes that they create. And we must ensure that those who protect us from these sites are provided the appropriate resources and tools to be successful.

“We will start 2020 by analyzing how best to accomplish this. I look forward to working with EGLE, local communities, our federal partners, and our Michigan Legislature to put measures in place to aggressively attack these problems.”

To report environmental emergencies, contact the Pollution Emergency Alerting System hotline 800-292-4706. For information about EGLE programs call our Environmental Assistance Center, 800-662-9278 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

EGLE will post updates at Electroplating Services / I-696 Incident.