Madison Heights vs. Gary Sayers: Trial over toxic green ooze continues

City is suing owner of building where toxic chemicals were found leaking

PONTIAC, Mich. – The city of Madison Heights wants Gary Sayers to pay for the demolition of a building which housed the now-condemned Electro-Plating Services on 10 Mile Road.

It was the site of a massive cleanup in 2016 due to improperly stored hazardous waste. Sayers was recently sentenced after he pleaded guilty to storing hazardous waste without a permit. He went to prison earlier this year.

The city wants him to demolish the building after the EPA ordered him to pay $1.5 million for cleanup costs. Toxic green ooze was found along I-696 in December and linked to that building along 10 Mile Road.

The civil trial got underway Jan. 13 in Oakland County Circuit Court and has continued to this week. Court was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 23 in Pontiac. However, it was adjourned due to a prosecutor being sick. It was scheduled to continue Wednesday, Jan. 29, but was adjourned again due to sick witness.

  • Court has resumed this week and is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Watch live above.

Testimony so far

The testimony we’ve heard in the trial so far outlines the conditions inside Electro-Plating Services -- hexavalent chromium, cyanide and acids are all leaking from old containers or were thrown into pits in the floor.

“It was almost a hoarding situation. I mean, just barrels and drums everywhere with just a narrow pathway to walk. Things stacked haphazardly. There were piles of hazardous waste sludge on the basement floor that were being dried with a window fan. It was difficult to pass through,” testified Tracy Kecskemeti, of the the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Photos shared during one court hearing showed the sanitary sewer pipes are covered what appears to be green chemicals. The sides of the pipes are eroded, and in some areas, the pipe is completely gone. Officials said the pipes lead to a treatment facility in Detroit before the water runs into the Detroit River.

Prosecutors are concerned because if the pipes are damaged by hazardous waste and chemicals, substances can seep into storm sewers and drains. When this happens, the substances can end up in several bodies of water, including Lake St. Clair.

“They all lead to the Red Run Drain, Clinton River and Lake St. Clair,” said Corey Almas, the director of public services in Madison Heights.

Authorities say not only did Sayers not follow protocol, but experts testified he wasn’t permitted to have these chemicals either.

Investigators then began looking into Sayers’ other properties in Detroit and Sanilac County. Although it seemed very likely green ooze found at the Commonwealth Building in Detroit would also be hexavalent chromium, test results say it is not.

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The former Electro-Plating Services building is located at 945 E 10 Mile Road in Madison Heights: