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Contaminated Electro-Plating site in Madison Heights to be formally re-evaluated for EPA’s Superfund program

Lane of I-696 closed for work on contamination site will reopen early next week

Cleanup in full swing at green ooze site in Madison Heights
Cleanup in full swing at green ooze site in Madison Heights

DETROIT – State regulators said they are launching a new, formal preliminary assessment of the Electro-Plating Services site in Madison Heights for possible inclusion in the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program.

Read: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weighs in on green ooze I-696 contamination

In addition, the lane of I-696 closed for work on the contamination site will reopen early next week as officials start an innovative workaround to keep the chemicals out of the sewer and begin scrutinizing newly available soil and groundwater tests from around the facility.

The site gained national attention when chemicals, including hexavalent chromium, seeped out of a retaining wall along the freeway and were discovered on Dec. 20.

Officials from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said this morning that they intend to have a new site assessment completed this spring, using data from dozens of soil and water test samples currently being collected and analyzed by EPA and EGLE. A 2019 assessment concluded there was a low risk for the site’s contaminated soil and water to move offsite.

Read more: Dangerous green ooze on I-696? Here’s what we know

Also on Friday, EPA officials said they have worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation to re-open the right lane of eastbound I-696 at the Couzens exit. That could happen as early as Monday, depending on the extent of the weekend’s forecasted rain and flooding. The exit ramp at Couzens, and service drive, will remain closed indefinitely. EPA officials said at least two workers will be maintaining and inspecting the pumps that are removing contaminated liquid in and near the site on a 24/7 basis during the rain event.

As an interim measure to keep chemicals from flowing downstream in the sewer system, EPA contractors have begun work on an interceptor trench that will divert groundwater from the sewer system for collection and proper disposal. Clean stormwater will be pumped around the impacted area and back into the storm sewer farther downstream.

EPA officials said Friday they are getting soil and water data back from boring wells drilled last week. Engineers, chemists, toxicologists and other experts are currently analyzing that data to inform both immediate and long-term cleanup decisions. Next week, the EPA will launch a publicly accessible web viewer that will display the data from test results on their web page.

EGLE officials also on Friday reported that they have confirmed elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in contaminated water collected by a sump pump in the basement pit of the facility, where EPS owner Gary Sayers illegally stored chemicals for decades.

The water sampled from the basement pit contained levels of PFOS – one of the PFAS compounds – at a level of 742 parts per trillion (ppt), above Michigan’s groundwater standard of 70 ppt.

On Wednesday, EGLE personnel expanded the investigation of PFAS from the site by sampling from six storm sewer locations and Bear Creek, where the sewer system daylights and becomes surface water.

A sample from Bear Creek taken last week showed hexavalent chromium at 4 parts per billion (ppb), below the water quality standard of 11 ppb. That sample was not tested for PFAS.

EGLE officials stressed that PFAS is not a concern for drinking water intakes in Lake St. Clair. Six rounds of drinking water intake testing in 2019 showed either no detection for PFAS, or very low levels. All results are below both the existing EPA advisory level and below Michigan’s proposed new drinking water standards. Drinking water plants that draw water from Lake St. Clair include Mt. Clemens, Ira Township, Grosse Pointe Farms, and New Baltimore. The PFAS testing date is available on the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team website here.

The presence of PFAS means that EGLE will take additional steps to ensure that the recovered water is properly treated to remove the compounds – as well as other contaminants in the water – before it is disposed of.

To report environmental emergencies contact the Pollution Emergency Alerting System hotline at 800-292-4706.